PETER BRIFFA: Civilised, firm, affable, and interested

Peter Briffa

I only met Norm once. It was at the Adam Smith Institute, at one of the “Whither blogging?” jamborees they used to organise, in which three well-known bloggers would make short speeches about the pros and cons of the medium. Once done, the fun started and we’d all hit the booze. I hadn’t planned on going to this one, but days before it was due I got an email from Norm asking if I were attending and, somewhat startled that such an eminence was interested in meeting, I showed up.

Looking back back, to be surrounded by so many libertarians, anarchists, Thatcherites and Perry de Havilland, Norm must have thought he’d descended into the sixth circle of hell. But if he felt uncomfortable he kept it to himself. We did get to chat, discussing that universal blogging ice-breaker ‘Who do you think is the worst columnist on the Guardian?’ We agreed to disagree on the merits of Polly Toynbee, and settled on a tie between Madeleine Bunting and Gary Younge (Simon Jenkins was still at The Times, then).

I also tried to persuade him to install comments on his blog. He didn’t bite. In a way it was a shame. Had he done so he blog would have had a very different atmosphere. On the other hand, it could have been carnage. The peaceniks and hard left crazies would surely have settled in, making life intolerable for all involved.

Norm was just like his blog, really. Civilised, firm, affable, and interested. The latter was the secret of his success I felt. He seemed just as interested in other people’s opinions as he was In his own. Which, of course, was why he was there at the Adam Smith Institute that evening.