On sleep and the constitution…

Is this the first morning in four or five weeks that anybody, now involved in the government of this country, has woken up after an even vaguely decent nights sleep?

I can’t help thinking that I’d rather everybody got a bit more sleep around these occasions.   I’m not the only one: only this March, in the Justice Select Committee oral evidence sessions even Lord Butler of Brockwell (and as he used to be Cabinet Secretary, he knows a thing or two about this) said:

“I think the arrangements in Britain for the formation of a new government after an election are unwisely frantic because—I have seen this, and Lord Turnbull has seen it—if it is a new Prime Minister, when the new Prime Minister comes in, he or she comes in in circumstances where they have had a long campaign; they may have had to sit up most of the night waiting for their election results, they then may have to travel to London, and they arrive in a state of exhaustion. To then have to make decisions that are crucial for the country, including the appointments of your main lieutenants in the first few hours, and a lot of other important decisions, has never seemed to me to be particularly wise, nor does it seem to me to be necessary. It is part of a drama that we have got used to that everybody enjoys, and it is difficult to break.”

And of course, it’s been worse this time as they’ve all had 5 days of discussion followed by yesterday’s dizzying day of action.

I can’t help suspecting the reason it happens is the macho, testosterone driven political culture that we have; noting, of course, that women can be susceptible to that culture too.  But not me!  I love sleep. Fascinated by politics as I am on May 6th I left the all night vigil in front of the telly to my husband and the dog.

Why is everybody the media and political activists so impatient to get to an answer that they’d rather have the sleep deprived elected such important decisions than alert ones? Is knowing one day later really going to make the difference in a year’s time?

Uncertainty is a function of changing governments and I think the last week proves that the markets do have more patience that we, or the media, gave them credit for.  If we planned to make the change over of government slightly less frenetic, say giving them a week to change or even two weeks I think it would be better for everyone. After all in the US they give 2 months for the administration to change and the world doesn’t fall in then, either.

I am amazed and in awe of those who have negotiated this coalition government on such little sleep.  I think they have managed rather better than the media, whose tempers have become frayed on occasion in the last week. 

So, Sir Gus, when you finish the Cabinet Manual (well done for Draft Chapter 6, by the way), do you think you could add in an itsy bitsy convention around taking more time, so that everybody that needs to can get a bit more sleep?

And Nick, as you are now Deputy Prime Minster with responsibility for Political Reform, could you add the changes to your to do list too?

Just don’t stay up all night to get it done!


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