How government ministers face crisis

In times of emergency the public looks to government to keep them safe, making crisis management an important part of being a minister. A new paper reveals how former ministers feel about the most high-profile and career-threatening incidents they faced while in power.

Published today by the Institute for Government (IfG), ‘Ministers Reflect: How to handle a crisis’ explains how politicians such as Iain Duncan Smith, Ed Balls and Alistair Darling dealt with the unexpected. Examples include sudden external shocks such as floods in Pakistan and riots in London; problems within government services such as prison strikes and tax leaks; and public relations crises in parliament and the press.

Nicola Hughes, report author and interviewer, said:

“Unexpected crises, from natural disasters to economic collapse, are inevitable. Ministers today dealing with rail strikes and prison strikes will be all too aware of this. While there is no ‘manual on how to do these things’, as Andrew Mitchell says, insights from those who have been there and done it should help new ministers feel better prepared and able to cope with the challenges ahead.”

The candid comments came as part of the IfG’s ‘Ministers Reflect’ series, which includes interviews with nearly 60 Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat ministers. The subsequent report, based on these interviews, provides twelve lessons for how ministers can get on top of a crisis.

These include:

  • prevention and preparation
  • managing teams and relationships across government
  • getting a grip on the facts and taking action
  • communication with the public
  • learning lessons after the event.   


Notes to editors

  1. The Institute for Government is an independent think tank that works to make government more effective.
  2. All Ministers Reflect interviews can be found here:
  3. For more information, please contact / 07850313791