I have an adventurous sister who is planning to travel to Iran in the autumn. Unlike some, I have no worries that the US is going to strike at the next member of the “axis of evil” any time soon. But I am beginning to be concerned about the internal stability of Iran. When president Khatami was elected a few years ago, it looked like peaceful reform was on course in Iran. Now it seems that both its hardline clerics and the anti-Iran rhetoric of the Bush administration are pushing the country away from reform and to the extremes.
Health secretary Alan Milburn resigned from Tony Blair’s government yesterday to “spend more time with his family”. But in Milburn’s case, his reason was not a euphemism for political differences or still-to-be-revealed embarrassment. He really does want to spend more time with his family.
It doesn’t take much acquaintance with contemporary politics — certainly as it is practiced in Britain — to see that it’s well-nigh impossible to be a leading practitioner and retain a semblance of ordinary human life. Ministers in particular work all hours of the day, seven days a week. Milburn had the added strain of a family in England’s northeast, a goodly distance from London.
In the corporate world, there is beginning to be acceptance in some quarters that work-life balance is vital if you want to retain happy, productive staff. Most top executives continue to ignore this truism, but there are glimmers of light, here and there. I’m not so deluded that I think any company takes its lead from how top politicians behave, but it would be nice if senior ministers demonstrated how a balanced life can also be a productive one.