He opens the first envelope and finds a letter from his predecessor Charles Clarke saying: “These three envelopes will save you a world of trouble. In case of emergency, please open these envelopes in sequential order; envelope one first, envelope two second, and envelope three third.”
John Ried shrugs, puts the envelopes back, and forgets about them.
One week later, the figures issued by his predecessor about foreign prisoners were proved to be incorrect. The opposition call him to account and the governments standing takes another tumble at the polls.
After a long night negotiating with his errant staff and a policeman in Portsmouth, he remembers the 3 envelopes. So he opens the first one and it says: “Blame me, your predecessor for every thing”.
Wonderful idea he thinks, and indeed it works and the crisis comes to its end. His job is saved, and everybody's happy.
A few days later, another systemic failure is discovered, in that Illegal Immigrants have been working in his very own immigration department. He goes to the drawer and opens the second envelope. It reads, “Blame the opposition for the privatisation of government services when they were in power, the contractors are to blame for everything”.
It works like a charm, and he breathes a sigh of relief as his job is, once again, saved.
A few days later there was another revelation, even worse than cash for peerages. It was discovered that his staff had been requesting sex for asylum. John Ried goes to the third envelope and it reads, “Prepare 4 new envelopes”.