Olly Grender turned sketchwriter in a brilliant satire on the journalists' motives which will make you laugh.
What needs to be spelled out loud and clear, though, is that items for the box received after 3pm don't just evaporate into thin air. They get put in the next day. And because they're not urgent, that's absolutely fine. It seems to me to be sensible way of his office organising its workload. It doesn't actually mean that he, or they, do less work.
Max Hastings has scraped the bottom of the barrel in today's Fail, suggesting that ministers shouldn't be bothered with this parenting stuff and should get on with the job. In an article entitled "Running the Country is a full time job - you can't do it between nappy changes", he suggests that ministers should not allow themselves to be distracted from their duty by family life. He also laughably suggests that it might have been a Liberal Democrat spin doctor who leaked the note about the red boxes. I mean, seriously....
It would not be surprising if Clegg’s ‘early closing’ note proved to be some spin-doctor’s idea. The Lib Dem leader is, after all, the man whose current contribution to making Britain more competitive is to demand a statutory extension of paternity leave from the current ‘paltry two weeks’.Let's just have a look at that. What Nick has suggested doesn't mean a reduction in the amount of work being done - it's giving parents freedom to choose between themselves who, if anyone, should stay at home to look after their children. That's a proper, liberal, treating people as grown ups measure that will help many families as well as reducing discrimination against women n the workplace. To me, that's Nick understanding what life is like for real people in the real world and coming up with an innovative, practical solution.
Hastings goes on to look back at writings of spouses of past ministers, from Therese Lawson, to Eden, to Churchill, all of whom complained about the stresses and strains on family life of having their spouse in high office. The subtext is clear - ministers need a little wife at home taking care of the children, leaving them free to do the manly job of running the country. It's a recurring theme for the Fail, a publication prone to putting about the idea that all the ills of society are caused by working mothers, career women who should stay at home and look after their kids. Of course, this doesn't apply if they're a single mother claiming state benefits, in which case they are simply workshy.
These stories are nothing more than a malicious attempt to pull a "Harriet Jones" stunt on Nick Clegg. For those of you who don't watch Doctor Who, Harriet Jones was the British PM in David Tennant's first episode, the Christmas episode called The Sycorax Invasion. She made a mistake, a big mistake, by firing on retreating aliens who'd had their marching orders from the Doctor. Our friendly Time Lord was livid, and suggested to a passing journalist that Harriet looked a bit tired. In a clever satire on the 24 hour news cycle, Harriet had to step down after this became a full blown health crisis.
In the end, though, she proved her worth by sacrificing herself to help save the earth from the Daleks, and the Doctor would soon have cause to regret his actions, which paved the way for the evil Master's rise to power as PM.
As far as Nick Clegg is concerned, he's in fine form at the moment, as we saw on Andrew Marr last weekend and as Jenny Stanning saw in Aviemore a couple of weeks ago. He works incredibly hard, as most politicians do. These mischievous stories are nothing but a clumsy attempt to undermine him by journalists who don't like the fact that he and the Liberal Democrats are reining in their beloved Tories in Government.