Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Is Nick Clegg working hard enough?

Perhaps this bothers me more than it should, but the idea that Nick Clegg shuts his box at 3pm Monday to Thursday and noon on Fridays is worrying. http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9382000/9382234.stm
Of course, there may be more to this story than meets the eye, for example he presumably spends a lot of time away speaking or meeting foreign leaders, so on ordinary office days likes to keep his workload to a minimum. I'm also, of course, not against politicians having a personal life and spending more time with their families, and having a cut-off point so they can do that, it's just that 3pm seems a little early.

I'm guessing he doesn't start work much before 9 in the morning, which means his working hours are significantly lower than the average person, which is clearly wrong. Also there are some, a lot, of jobs where doing out-of-hours work from home is expected and necessary. Using the example of my Dad; as a teacher he is in school from 8am to usually around 3.30 to 4pm, already more hours than Clegg, and on top of that has a large amount of marking and lesson planning to do in his own time. This is nothing unusual. Deputy Prime Minister should be, one would assume, a job in which a bit extra is expected. That doesn't mean Clegg should not be able to spend time with his family, but it appears, if this story is true, that he is taking advantage of the flexible nature of his job to work a minimum number of hours.

In Clegg's defence, as Deputy Prime Minister, he is technically responsible for all government departments, but does not have the staff or resources of the Prime Minister to provide the same level of scrutiny, but surely this would make him work harder?

This is particularly problematic in a coalition. If John Prescott had worked short hours it wouldn't have really mattered as he was more of a token Deputy to keep the traditional side of the party happy, given a job without a department to create the illusion of power. However, Clegg has a much more important roll. For a lot of people, myself included, our faith in the coalition is based on the idea that the Lib Dems are constantly battling behind the scenes to get every single possible compromise out of the Conservatives. A big part of this is Clegg's responsibility in his overseeing roll. But if he doesn't put government policy up to the scrutiny he should be, how can we be sure that the government is not the least Conservative it can be? And what's to stop the Tories from taking advantage of Clegg's apparently relaxed attitude and sneaking policy in which Clegg shouldn't be agreeing to?

I don't want to tell people how to organise their time, but it seems that if you want to be a stay-at-home Dad, don't become Deputy Prime Minister.

Nick Clegg says he is working hard enough. Obviously you can't believe everything a politician says, but I think that even the laziest MP probably works later than 3pm, so I'm inclined to believe him on this one. Also, the memo was just about submissions to his box, not about going home early like the BBC implied originally. What do you think?

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