This is such a key point I couldn't help lift it from XpCourageValue
On the subject of courage
, there was a set of comedy programmes in the UK called Yes, Minister
and Yes, Prime Minister
. The minister, Jim Hacker, was a mediocre politician whose permanent secretary, Sir Humphrey, was the bane of his life. The PS was a civil servant who saw his job as maintaining the status quo. Occasionally someone with a good idea would talk to Jim, who would then formulate a policy which Sir Humphrey would have to implement. Of course, since that would change the status quo, Sir Humphrey would move heaven and earth not to do what he was told. Jim would override all Sir Humphrey's objections. The PS would always get his way in the end: he described the new policy as courageous
So the interaction would go something like:
- Jim Hacker: So I fully plan to do X ...
- Sir Humphrey: How very courageous Minister.
- Jim Hacker: Oh dear ... is it, why? (backs down)
Specifically, a "brave" decision was one that would lose you votes, whereas a "courageous" one was one that would lose you the election.
These programmes have been so popular that the texts have been published. There are a lot of footnotes drawing attention to real parallels with the fictional stories. I have heard that the original inspiration came to the authors when they heard the following story.
There was a British M.P. whose party were in opposition. As part of his campaign the M.P. worked hard on a petition on some topic (it doesn't matter what). He collected many signatures and presented it to Parliament, made speeches, etc.
Then there was an election. The M.P. won and so did his party. They formed the Government. The M.P. was appointed to the Government, to the Ministry responsible for policy related to his petition. Soon after appointment he rejected the petition.
In the U.K. context this is about the tension between the senior civil servants and the politicians. The 'back bench' M.P.'s who hold no office beyond that have to relate all the time to their constituency. When they become ministers they still have a constituency but also have all the paperwork of the job (which is traditionally sent to them in locked red boxes), plus visits, speeches etc. They may well end up with no home life left at all.
A friend of mine is a UK civil servant, and a big fan of Yes,Minister and Yes,PrimeMinister
- as, apparently, are the entire British civil service and political establishment. The standard present from a minister's Private Office to their departing minister is a hardback set of the books.