Not so brave

indexI was interested to see that Janet Yellen was recently confirmed as chair of the Federal Reserve in the USA.  I once chaired a meeting she addressed in London.  I am not sure why I was invited to chair it.   I suspect it was not because of my renowned expertise in international finance.  I remember it especially because when I invited questions the young city types in the audience seemed reticent about speaking, so I asked some questions that I regarded as fairly unexceptional and benign.  I received thoughtful answers.  It was only when I was leaving that some of those attending came up to me to say things along the lines of ‘I am so glad you asked that’, ‘you were brave asking that’.

Longstanding readers may recall that I have reported being at other meetings when I have had a similar experience.  I seem to have a knack of asking things that I regard as unexceptional, only for others to think I am being daring.  I was also recently with the CEO of a leading company when we bumped into a colleague in the Lords who was an old friend of the CEO.  The colleague immediately began to say kind things about me, including ‘he was so brave, he led the revolt in the Lords on….’.  The background noise was such that I didn’t catch what it was I had led the revolt on that merited the description.

What do I draw from these experiences?  The fact that I sometimes see things slightly different from others is something of which I have long been aware.  The more reflective consideration is what it means to be brave.  My view is that none of these experiences merit that description in the slightest.  In my view it is not brave unless one recognises one is doing something dangerous.  There’s nothing dangerous about me raising questions, however iconoclastic or idiosyncratic, in meetings.  The reaction doesn’t concern me in the slightest.  There’s also nothing especially brave about leading a revolt or speaking out in the Lords.  I remember when I spoke in 2000 in support of lowering the age of consent I had peers coming up the next day to congratulate me and, yes, say how brave I was.  I just took the view I had something to say.

People who are brave are those who face situations that they know or believe to be dangerous.  I don’t recall doing anything dangerous – well, except getting on planes…

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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5 Responses to Not so brave

  1. tizres says:

    Only another hour to go…nail-biting, isn’t it?

  2. maude elwes says:

    The sooner Europe decides to sever its all too close relationship with a duplicitous and renegade banking system originating across the pond, the quicker European states will get their house in order. Time to chop the head off a chicken that’s been unable to lay for decades.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4aab18c2-e0fa-11e3-875f-00144feabdc0.html#axzz32t6DHhBi

    And it sounds, from this radio discussion, this person is another bought off set up.

    And the new move storming every European state? Traditional social values mixed with its natural outcome, an economic left. The European Left is on the march and the message won’t stop at Calais.

  3. maude elwes says:

    I didn’t add, but, meant to in the post above, is, I too feel that in the politically oppressive environment we live today, you, Lord Norton, are indeed brave. In all the time I have been reading and posting here, you not once have censored what I write. That is true belief in free thinking and shows more courage than most who sit in our houses of power.

    And another, more important side effect of that freedom you offer, is, it proves you are secure in your belief.

    • Lord Norton says:

      maude elwes: Many thanks. I think it is more to do with being a teacher by vocation – I seek to engage and explain – as well as believing in free speech. Plus, of course, the fact that you don’t test my patience like LordBlagger….

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