Stefan Stern: Brodie Clark and the bravery that we need to encourage

Those who blow the whistle on wrongdoing are rarely popular – at least initially

Share
Related Topics

Today Brodie Clark is appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee. He will finally get a chance to explain what he did or did not do in his senior role at the UK Border Force. It will be his day in the court of public opinion. But Mr Clark has already paid a high price to win the freedom to speak out. He has resigned his post after a long career. No amount of compensation for a constructive dismissal claim will make up for the shock of his sudden exit.

As with fame, whistleblowing costs. The odds are against you. Businesses and organisations reject whistleblowers rather like organisms trying to eradicate a virus. Play by the rules, knuckle down, and all should be well. Object, parade your conscience, or expose wrongdoing among the powerful, and there will be trouble ahead.

But something is up. Amid the tumult of events this year a pattern of behaviour is emerging which spells bad news for out-of-touch leaders and offers encouragement to potential whistleblowers.

Consider the actions of the Rev Giles Fraser on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral in London. Conservative voices in the Church and the City Corporation made it plain that public protest was intolerable. Action would have to be taken. Silence on Dr Fraser's part would have made his life easier, in the short term at least. It might even have proved career-enhancing. But he spoke out, and resigned. The immediate hit to his employment prospects has been softened by almost complete vindication. His reputation has grown. And his priestly virtues have been fully recognised.

Think of Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool this autumn. Misrepresented at the time as "anti-business", he provoked a response from some in the media and business that will have been familiar to any whistleblower.

The argument was criticised, and the messenger was mocked. Less than two months later, a similar line of argument – concern about the lack of responsibility among some business leaders – was being voiced by Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays. A growing body of business and academic opinion has emerged to support the claim that "business as usual" is not a sustainable option.

Finally, think of the cast of whistleblowers who have exposed immoral practices in British journalism. It would have been safer to keep quiet. But their actions were endorsed at the opening of the Leveson inquiry yesterday by Robert Jay QC. He called for others to show similar "moral courage".

Whistleblowers are rarely popular, at least initially. They are encouraged, one way or another, to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. But more are finding their voice. And now is a time for truth-tellers to speak up.

Stefan Stern is a visiting professor at the Cass Business School in London

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital