Twenty-four hours ago I was sure that things couldn't get any worse.
After only a few days at the government's well-publicised secret listening centre PCHQ, I had managed to bring the entire workforce out on strike.
It wasn't my fault - this is self-evident. I am a consultant; my role is to devise imaginative plans. It's the line manager's job to be at fault.
Any success will be due to my brilliant strategy, but if things go wrong, surely it's the manager's responsibility to spot potential failure. He's the person on the ground, after all. There has to be some division of labour.
But I am avoiding the horrible truth. The fact is that when I sent the PC Support team, contracted out to US experts Silicon Support Systems, on a customer service training day to improve their image, their absence led to the mass walk-out. PCHQ supremo, Major Preston Stewart, ordered me to rectify matters. It was obviously difficult to get a message across to the staff as they sulked at home, so I arranged a press conference.
The national media was there in force. Any spy disaster, especially if technology gets the blame, thrills the press. Just look at that MI6 on the Internet business.
I didn't have a chance to okay the plan with Major Stewart - which was a shame as it involved spending around £100 million - but I thought that a quasi-military establishment wouldn't notice that sort of small change.
The press lapped it up. I explained how the whole thing had been a misunderstanding, but that by moving further services immediately to SSS we would show our commitment to improvement. I also announced the sacking of SSS's site manager - after all, someone has to take the blame. But the icing on the cake was the announcement of a huge investment in extra IT for PCHQ and associated areas of the Civil Service. They're always complaining about being under-resourced, so I thought that would shut them up.
It should have been perfect. I certainly didn't expect Major Stewart to come storming into my office an hour later to tell me that the entire Civil Service was now on strike because of my proposal to replace them with computers. I don't suppose I helped matters by making a joke about not noticing the difference. Then my secretary popped her head round the door. "Mr Blair on the line," she said. "He doesn't sound pleased."
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