Working to make government more effective


Ministers reflect: how to handle a crisis

12 lessons from former ministers on how to handle a crisis.

Unexpected crises are inevitable. To keep the public safe and reassured at difficult times – and to protect their own careers – ministers need to handle them carefully, so it’s important they learn from past examples.

Using stories from our Ministers Reflect archive of interviews, including Alistair Darling on the banking crisis, Ed Balls on the Baby P case and Caroline Spelman on the forests fiasco, this paper provides 12 lessons on how to handle 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.   

Crisis management is an important part of effective government and the risks of getting it wrong are high. Ministers do not need to reinvent the wheel every time there is a new crisis: learning from past examples of crises, both by seeking advice from predecessors and by calling on departmental experience.


Civil servants
Political party
May government
House of Commons
Institute for Government

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