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6 September 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 8:03am

How I’m recovering from the political roller coaster of 2016

By Laura Kuenssberg

Hands up – who else is completely exhausted? By that, I mean the kind of knackeredness that I feel when I turn the light off and it seems as if it’s only 30 seconds later that the soothing tones of my esteemed colleagues at the Today programme wake me up by introducing the early-morning weather.

It’s just too much for me these days to be woken up by the beeps sounding on the hour – they cause me to sit up bolt upright and panic that I’m supposed to be ready to talk into a microphone somewhere, about something, ideally in a coherent fashion, and I am late.

It’s just too overwhelming, and my veins can’t take that amount of adrenalin when it is still dark outside.


Tricks of the brain

It seems to me that, by this stage of the year, the whole of Westminster is suffering from a kind of brain fatigue. It’s a remarkable thing. Your mind doesn’t just work more slowly – the neurons stumble about crashing into each other rather than firing properly or in an organised fashion.

I find that the brain even starts to play cheeky tricks on you. First, there is an enormous increase of selective memory. This is an ever-present part of most of our psyches, designed largely, I believe, to irritate close colleagues, friends and spouses. But the exertions of 2016 have, for me at least, pushed this alarming effect up to a festive high.

For instance, I can remember exactly what time it was when Andrea Leadsom announced that she was pulling out of the Conservative leadership race: 12.02pm on 11 July. How long was George Osborne’s Budget in March? It lasted 63 minutes. And the time it was when my phone buzzed with the six-word text that changed everything (“THIS HAS GONE. LEAVE TO WIN”)? It was 1.58am on 24 June.

What about how long it took to persuade Theresa May to do an interview during the referendum campaign? That one is a lot easier – it took months.


All talk and a pair of trousers

But now? It’s not so much that I have to stop and think for a few moments to remember what the story was that I did which ran on News at Ten last night, or where I wrote down the Christmas presents list, or the names of Labour’s entire front bench, or the level of permitted variance of the council-tax precept for social care (although that’s not that surprising).

My level of exhaustion is such that my mind has even been making up imaginary political fairy stories – handy for this time of year, or for adding hilarity to Christmas family occasions. My brain is so in need of a rest that it has even conjured up a story of two talented politicians, one in the biggest job in the land, who are waging a battle through the press over the lavishness of their leather budget. How ridiculous is that?

On an important note, if you are unfamiliar with the concept of “cost per wear”, look it up. Nicky Morgan’s £950 bag makes sense on that basis. Unless the Prime Minister wears the £995 leather trousers as regularly as Lenny Kravitz wears his, the chocolate legwear doesn’t cut it. And no, for the record, I don’t own either item.


Snubbed by Europe

The point is that everyone in Westminster is addled, suffering from the side effects of too much news. Even now, as we hurtle towards Christmas, the world is selfishly refusing to stop. Aside from the spat over the wrong trousers, there have been the European Union’s terrible affront to Britain, with our Prime Minister not being invited to its jolly Christmas dinner; the stirrings of a huge, long-term battle over how we as a country pay to care for our elderly; and more evidence that lawyers and advisers will be trousering (geddit?) Yuletide bon­uses, courtesy of how, on Brexit, no one seems to have a clue.


Satsuma power

So, for just a couple of weeks, before we ­return joyously to the carnival of news that will be 2017, I intend to indulge in a kind of brain rehab. This requires a cessation of phone calls, WhatsApp messages and texts from 7pm until midnight, avoiding lamp posts and looking ahead, rather than at a tiny digital screen, when I am walking along the street. I won’t finish every conversation with: “That could be a really good blog if I get some time to make some more calls.”

In place of all that, intellectual activities such as Buckaroo!, gin rummy and vintage Trivial Pursuit from the late 1980s; falling asleep on the sofa with a muddy dog at ­every opportunity; Prosecco before the tariffs come; and, most importantly, chipolatas at every sitting.

We all know that the large bowl of sat­sumas will still be staring accusingly from the kitchen table once the hurly-burly of politics is in full swing again. If 2017 is anything like 2016, we’ll need the Vitamin C. So happy Christmas, and see you on the other side, by which time my brain, I promise, will be fully restored.

Laura Kuenssberg is the BBC’s political editor. Follow her on Twitter: @BBCLauraK

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