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8 November 2012

Now, Mr President, please chillax until you’ve recovered

Obama

At the risk of sounding like nanny, I think it’s time all the over-excited politicians involved in the US election had a nice rest and came back refreshed and capable of acting like grown-ups.

In olden days, Roy Jenkins would clock off early evening from the Treasury and have a pleasant dinner with friends. This kept him sane. These days George Osborne has been denounced for once taking five hours on a Friday to indulge his passion for Wagner. The Prime Minister is reviled because he admitted to chillaxing with a couple of pints or glasses of wine at Sunday lunch.

Why?

It’s mostly down to the voraciousness of 24-hour media which makes impossible demands on public figures. We expect the Chancellor of the Exchequer to appear on Newsnight, go home and polish off his red boxes, be up early to be cudgelled by John Humphries on the Today Programme and yet to be on top of his brief at all times.

Poor Gordon Brown took all this to a level of madness. Given to going to bed late and getting up before dawn, his response to a bad press was to work later and start earlier. By the end he was calling colleagues before six in the morning, throwing things about and getting everything wrong because his judgement was so impaired by exhaustion.

At summits, politicians are locked up until they wear each other out and in the small hours reach a decision – any decision – that will allow them to catch two hours sleep before they have to face the TV cameras.

I’m a fan of Margaret Thatcher, but all this was her fault. She really did thrive on five hours sleep, she was never happier than when working, she neither had nor wanted a hinterland and she could outstay anyone. The result was that politicians who didn’t emulate her were dismissed as lazy or self-indulgent.

I’m not a fan of President Obama, but I’ve never thought the criticism of his golfing was fair and I hope he’ll now head off to the course or the beach and chillax like anything. He’s the leader of the Western world, he’s been president for four years, he’s just had months of punishing campaigning and he’s now facing very challenging times on Capitol Hill. In all our interests, he should get away from Washington and not come back until he’s had enough R and R to think clearly. And the same goes for his political allies as well as opponents like Congressman and ex-VP candidate Paul Ryan and all the other Republicans now squaring up for battle.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

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