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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Do politicians work too hard?
Prime Minister Tony Blair

Tony Blair is resting under doctors' orders after hospital treatment for an irregular heartbeat.

The Prime Minister's leadership style has always seen him taking on more of the burdens of government than most of his predecessors.

When Health Secretary Alan Milburn decided to leave the government in June he blamed the way the demands of the job conflicted with having a family.

He said: "Politics is a completely crazy way to run your life - and I have to get a life."

Do politicians work too hard? Should their personal lives come second to the job?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The comments published reflect the balance of views received:

The only politician that I have ever seen working hard is Michael Portillo when he spent a week as a single mum!
Emma, Isle of Man

TB is working his socks off. But we the General Public want a first class health service but are not prepared to pay for it. We say we want trains to run on time but we are not willing to pay for it. We want better schools but we are not prepared to pay for it. The Government gets all its money from taxes but it seems we do not want to pay any taxes and have fantastic public services. I wish we would make up our minds. With an electorate like that no wonder TB looks the way he does.
Paul, UK

What we need from our politicians is honesty and integrity, not more hours. It doesn't matter whether they work too much or too little.
Matt Southall, UK

I hope he is working hard; after all being prime minister is not a part-time hobby!
A Catley, UK
Did anyone notice the specialist said it would have nothing to do with stress? So why do people automatically assume he's working too hard? I hope he is working hard; after all being prime minister is not a part-time hobby!
A Catley, UK

I think politicians often do work too hard, but not necessarily at the things we would like them to. They seem to have boundless energy for those aspects of politics that thrust them into the limelight, yet no time at all for resolving the real issues that really make a difference. Perhaps if Mr Blair concentrated more effort on ensuring that the country's infrastructure actually worked, and less on strutting about the world stage, he might have less stress and more job satisfaction.
David Hazel, UK

I have worked for an MP and I agree with those who have said that most politicians do work hard and the compensation is not that great. However, in Blair's case, it has to be said that much of the stress he has been under recently is self-imposed. He refuses to delegate work, he has presided over a Government which has been slow to deliver real improvements on the domestic front and he is now facing the consequences of taking this country in to an illegal war, against the wishes of the majority of the population to support an extreme nationalist American administration. He should feel stressed, even despite his fantastic work in Northern Ireland.
Josh, UK

Our MPs do far too much work for too little pay!! They should work a maximum of 25 hours a week to compensate for travel time and employ someone to look after their constituency paperwork to give them a break. As for the salary it should reflect the quality of work they do and increase by at least 50%!!
Paul, UK

No they don't work too hard, well certainly not at what they are supposed to be working at!
John, England
No they don't work too hard, well certainly not at what they are supposed to be working at! One only has to look at TV coverage to see that the palace of Westminster is empty all but for half an hour a week when the rabble joins together in the school children antics of seeing who can shout the loudest. If Blair was a half decent manager then he would not be under any stress
John, England

No doubt some politicians do work too hard. It is the same in almost any area of life. What is so truly self deluding and sad in the particular instance of Tony Blair is the almost desperate insistence to assure us he is OK. This is politics macho style reflecting the mad belief that only the presence of Tony Blair can ensure the interests of the nation are protected - as if this averagely bright guy in an important position is our only bulwark against disaster. No politician starts to be indispensable.

Take a rest Tony; the problems will still be there when you get back, just as intractable, just unamenable to a quick fix. The recognition you are just like the rest of us and as subject to the same ills as us might dilute the awful messianic quality of your present posturing. That could only be good for the nation.
Ian Gregory, UK

Although I do not agree with all of his policies I honestly do not know of any other leader in this land that could step into his shoes or we would want to elect. He does a sterling job in the face of the nonsense he has to put up with from this lot of delinquents and I sincerely hope he is back on his soap box ASAP.
Neil, UK

They need to stop everything they are doing, and then start to do what they were elected to do
Stefan, UK
Yes, they work far too hard. They need to stop everything they are doing, and then start to do what they were elected to do. That way their work load would be cut in half, and their output would double. And just maybe the trains would run (on the rails), NHS patients would be treated (in the NHS, not in France), and my kid wouldn't be in a class of 39!
Stefan, UK

We are generally very badly served by our politicians. In an age when more young people are likely to vote for a 'Big Brother' or 'Pop Idol' programme than for who is to be their MP they really should be very worried. Trouble is they come across as condescending, arrogant, and are so out of touch with the 'man in the street' it's painful. The average politician works no harder than most in business (particularly the self employed), and far less than some.

But the difference being, the MPs have voted themselves significantly above inflation salary increases, while most in industry do not have that luxury. In fact my company capped salary increases to 3% last year, all of which was eaten up by increases in NI contribution and increases in Pension and Council tax contributions. They do not have any sympathy from me, after all most will retire from politics and get a cushy job on the board of a city bank and continue their smug, comfortable lives.
Jon R, UK

It is part and parcel of our ridiculous long-hours culture
Nick, UK
I think politicians, like the the vast majority of people in this country, work too hard. It is part and parcel of our ridiculous long-hours culture that will take more than legislation to reverse. I would also like to deplore the uncharitable comments made about Tony Blair, though these too are symptomatic of our country that so loves to kick a man when he's down. The Prime Minister is doing a difficult job in difficult circumstances, I cannot imagine the pressure that he must be under, I wonder how many of us would wish to throw ourselves into the public spotlight in the same way.
Nick, UK

It seems that his deputy PM is not working hard enough to take some workload off him. I thought this is what a deputy does. Where is he? So far I have not seen him in any action (apart from his famous punches to the egg thrower)!
Syed, UK

The running of any country is obviously a job that requires the utmost dedication and hard work, it would take its toll on anyone. However, if that is your chosen profession, then you must expect to bear all of the pressure that goes along with it. No one's personal lives should be completely overrun by their occupation, but that is the reality for many people in this country who are in a far less prestigious or financially rewarding career than most politicians. Inevitably a politician's life should be inextricably linked with their job, as it involves the welfare of others.
Malcolm Scott, Edinburgh

I personally do not care about the state of Blair's health, only that I care considerably about the state of health of my country England and I will applaud any 1st Minister of HM Government that will work truly to that end and I know that Blair unfortunately is not interested in the well being of our country but in his own selfish agenda.
R Steward, GB

No way! As an American citizen, I can only speak for the politicians in our country, the ones that we elect. They are most certainly not overworked. Perhaps if they worked more they wouldn't be so incompetent concerning foreign policy and learn to stop being the world wide bully. But the blame can't, unfortunately, all rest with our politicians. The citizens themselves need to take the initiative to spend more time researching their candidates before electing them into office. Just because they have a familiar last name (that means you Mr. President) doesn't mean they are the best person for the job!
Christina, USA

We need to change the political culture
Andrew Turvey, England
Politicians at all levels have to work very hard in exchange for little remuneration and even less appreciation. That's why most talented people who could be an asset to the country choose to go into business or the media instead, or just spend time with their families. We need to change the political culture - to start with treating politicians with humanity and then making politics more about group efforts and less about personal ambition.
Andrew Turvey, England

Tony Blair has been working very hard to get himself in the history books. If he had spent more of this time running the country then we might not be in such a mess.
Philip Cleveland, UK

Yes they work too hard, but so what? They queue up to do it, they get a kick out of power, and they get good careers afterwards. Anyone who thinks they "sacrifice" anything for a lower pay level than the private sector should look at the complex of power motives driving them.
Shan, Britain

Well I ran my own company for years until I was 71, never one health problem in all that time. I put in 6 days a week quite regularly. You have to do so to make a success of something. Take it or leave it Tony!
Mr Harry Wentworth, Torquay, Devonshire, England

This man has a complete dedication and commitment to his job, whatever his faults may be. Look at his annual wage, and honestly tell me any of you who freely accept the burdens and pressures of such a tough and relentless occupation? This man has my full sympathies being in the most ruthless job in Britain.
Alexander, Oxford, England

No they don't work too hard, just hard enough for the job they do. It is inevitable that someone in such a public job will have to put their personal life on the back-burner to some extent and it is a tribute to the Blair's marriage that they have managed to stay so close throughout Tony's period of office. What impresses me about Blair is that he is not whingeing about everything. Perhaps some of the moaners who have written things on this site should take a lesson or two from him in courage and self-respect.
Martin Smith, England

Do they work too hard? No, junior doctors work too hard. Nurses work too hard. Teachers work too hard. Lest we forget that after a short stint in the political arena, many politicians go on to lucrative careers in after dinner speaking and sitting on the board of directors of companies
Aaron, Wales

Politicians do the best they can in almost impossible circumstances
Dom, UK
You couldn't pay me any amount of money to do what TB or any other senior politician does. No private life, constant scrutiny and criticism and the responsibility of one of the worlds leading industrialised nations! Politicians do the best they can in almost impossible circumstances.
Dom, UK

With regard to Dom: "No private life, constant scrutiny and criticism, and the responsibility of one of the world's leading industrialised nations"? With a cabinet, bevy of spinners and civil servants to help, you forget. Try "no private life, constant scrutiny and criticism, and the sole responsibility of saving or prolonging somebody's life all day every day, whilst under the pressure of ridiculous targets and bureaucracy". That's a doctor. Or "no private life, constant scrutiny and criticism, and the sole responsibility of educating the next generation of young hooligans to the best level you can, under constant pressure from government targets and with no support from the parents". That's a teacher. Do politicians work too hard? Not in my book.
Bob Campbell, UK

There is no doubt that Tony works real hard. The guys got more passion and vision than any current politician and I am not surprised that this drives him to think that he can push through change by the full force of his determination. This may often lead to frustration & stress. In the end his family may suffer but as far as I am concerned we must stand by Blair all the way.
Chris Oduola, uk

It is a person's choice to become Prime Minister, just as it is a choice to become a public servant. Many public servants work long hours for very little reward and many take work home. That's life. The Prime minister can afford to go for his training sessions, he has places for relaxation. Most of us don't. Most male public servants die after two or three years of retirement saving the treasury millions. If we take time of sick, we are wastrels and we too get ill as we get older. If Mr Blair wants to retire, he can and he will have a personal pension fund. Time to come down to earth Tony. The Romans used to remind their triumphal generals. " remember that thou art mortal".
Tony, Welling, Kent

I fail to see how MPs can be considered to be overworked when so many of them can spend time engaged in non-political activities giving them more income. The classic example is the MSP who spends his day in court then rushes to the debating chamber to cast his vote in something he has not listened to. His six figure annual income for this on top of his MSP salary and perks is an insult to every man and woman in this country. If I could pass a law it would be to ban every MP MSP and MEP from any other employment during the period they have been elected to serve the people.
Gordon, Scotland

They are focusing on the wrong issues
Simon, England
Hard, probably. Effective, no. They are focusing on the wrong issues. The government should have a limited and clear program, and ministers should take charge and deliver that program.
Simon, England

Who to blame for the levels of mindless scepticism and prejudice on this page: politicians for their failures, or the media for their simplistic caricatures? Do not get into the simplistic and superficial belief that because they don't appear to be in Parliament everyday they are doing no work. Do the writers to this page equate the number of hours spent in internal meetings with the number of hours of work that they do? I doubt it, so why assume it of politicians? MPs get enormous amounts of correspondence, have large constituency caseloads to get through, unimaginable facts and figures to assimilate and hundreds of disagreements to manage. Some probably take it too easily, or appear to do so but on the whole it is a damn tough job spec.
David, UK

Mr Blair is no more under pressure than anyone of us in this country who are trying to survive these days. He should stop running around trying to solve everyone else's problems and look at his own backyard, starting with immigration, working his way through all of those promises he made when he was elected, schooling, NHS etc. Open your eyes Mr Blair at the true levels of unemployment, the real state of our country at present moment. If your irregular heartbeat was as a result of tackling our issues here then maybe I would have some sympathy for you.
Pol, UK

Give these guys a break! They earn a fraction of what they could in the private sector and work twice the hours. If you don't pay them properly, you'll end up with an even worse bunch than we have at the moment.
Iain, UK

I hope Tony Blair recovers from his SVT attack. I know only too well what it is like to suffer from them. I had attacks like these for years in the past, but in 1999, I had a pacemaker implanted. I am only 46, but I hope if he has any more and they become regular he will be seen a lot earlier than I was seen.
Mrs Susan Rigby, UK

No, politicians do not work too hard; they hold too many offices and mandates. If they would concentrate on one mandate or office only, they would have half the stress than they actually have and the quality of their work would surely be better.
Alex, Germany

People like Blair don't get nearly enough compensation for the years they knock off their lives. The majority of MPs don't do much, the cabinet, and the PM especially, are well overworked. The same skills in the private world would get 10 times the salary.
Paul Weaver, UK

It's obvious that Blair works harder than 99% of the population
David, UK
It's obvious that Blair works harder than 99% of the population. Not many people could cope with the pace, stress, responsibility, and workload that he does. It's just absurd not to respect the man's work, whatever you might think of his politics.
David, UK

Exactly how much do some people here think MPs get paid? In the great scheme of things, it's really not that much - far less than US equivalents and many EU equivalents and a lot less than they'd get paid in the commercial world. Some of them work very hard and deserve it, and like any walk of life, some don't. To say 'all MPs swan around' is ignorant and disrespectful to the many that work hard trying to make our lives better.
Katherine, UK

It's the rest of us that are overworked, underpaid and provided with an alarmingly poor health service that should be concerned. MPs live in a utopic world where private health care is the norm, we the public don't. I have little sympathy for MPs and their apparent heavy workload. Try working for peanuts that just keep you existing and provide little quality of life whilst others are scrounging off the state and living the life of Riley. I graduated in 2001 and I am still looking for an opportunity, whilst unemployed people are driving cars around. That stresses me out and it's the MPs fault that it's happening. So no, Mr Blair has no sympathy from me and if he can't hack it he should resign. Then maybe someone with intelligence and a good heart will take over. However I doubt it.
S Barton, UK

Whether they work hard or not (and many would doubt how much work some of them actually do), at least they have the benefit of not having to worry about whether their pension is safe. If it looks like they need a bit more they just vote it through and let the rest of us pick up the bill, while also worrying about whether we can afford to provide a pension for ourselves. Seems pretty cushy to me.
John B, UK

No they don't work any harder than most. They set there own ridiculous salaries and if Tony Blair has to retire due to ill health, I'm sure he will get a huge pay off.
Jon Reynolds, UK

Personal lives all too often come second to work whether you are a politician or not
Adam, UK
Unfortunately, personal lives all too often come second to work whether you are a politician or not. Some politicians work very hard, some not enough. The Prime Minister's schedule is far too much for anyone to reasonably be expected to cope with. In Blair's case though, he doesn't trust his cabinet colleagues to take on more responsibility.
Adam, UK

If it's true Tony you have my sympathy and best wishes for good health, however with all the spin this year we could be looking at a sympathy vote or a prelude to a resignation. I think the truth is the most ailing part of this government.
Tony, UK, Yorkshire

Being Prime Minister is not just a job, is it? You have to devote yourself 24/7 and then some. Blair knew what the work load would be.
Wendy, UK

He is a good lad; he has transformed British economy to healthy state, but lost some credibility over the Iraq war. But he should be allowed to continue because of his right vision for the country. He is a true leader. One has to remember that there is nobody without shortcomings. I wish you quick recovery Tony
Samuel, UK

I'm sure he does work very hard, but then so do the rest of us but even our collective stress related illnesses don't make the headlines!
Diane Corbett, England

Whenever something goes wrong, there are calls for the Prime Minister to intervene. When he does he's either accused of interfering or being "too presidential". Similarly, when he listens to opinion polls/focus groups he's a weak sycophantic leader, when he doesn't he's arrogant and out of touch. He works too hard (incidentally for a salary no Chief Executive would get out of bed for) because he has to - nobody will give the poor man a break!
Steve, UK

I suspect it's not so much the amount of work that's the problem, but the stress of being expected to deliver what turns out to be impossible
Graham, UK
Modern society demands so much and yet gives so little room for manoeuvre. I suspect it's not so much the amount of work that's the problem, but the stress of being expected to deliver what turns out to be impossible, with seemingly no help from anyone. Anyone who's ever run a business that's in trouble will understand. I'm no supporter of his, but from his perspective it must be many times worse than that - an entire national agenda that is simply not working out. But I'm sure we all put politics aside for a moment and wish him a speedy recovery.
Graham, UK

It all depends on what you mean by 'work'. I've noticed several politicians who seem to be on television quite a lot, and are probably working very hard to court the media. I am equally certain that there are those politicians who are trying to make a difference, but are largely unrecognised.

As a sufferer of supra ventricular tachycardia, does this mean I can now equate my normal day-to-day stress levels to that of the PM? I've never received any treatment for it but my doctors highly recommend regular yoga sessions but this hasn't stopped the condition reappearing at whim in my case. Hopefully this advice will be more useful to the PM and any other stressed out MPs.
Bernise, UK

How much of this time at work is spent doing the work? Perhaps politicians don't work smart enough. More time on meeting objectives and less on delivering 'the message' please.
Jason Ingham, UK

Politics would seem not only to be a very time consuming job, but it also seems very stressful. Whether or not you agree with Tony Blair's action on Iraq (and I did not), it seems obvious that it was not a decision that he made easily and that the stress has begun to take it's toll. There's not enough money in the world that would make me take up a job with that amount of demands. I value my health, my sanity and the time I spend with my family too much.
Kirsty, Wales

We should be more compassionate
Kieron, UK
I think Mr Blair does work very hard and I am sure being Prime Minister is quite a stressful job. In this instance it is only minor and I think we should be more compassionate rather than fire a health or stress debate at the PM. I would not wish this on anybody. Incidentally I am a blue voter but fail to see the significance of a debate surrounding this issue - it is a private matter which we have enough information on. I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.
Kieron, UK

It seems to me that Tony is suffering more from a drop in the opinion polls than anything else.
Dan, UK

They do work too hard - can you imagine the difficulties involved, employing your wife or son as your researcher at taxpayers' expense then going off to live with a family on benefits for a week all for a miserly 15,000 and then having to juggle your 184 expenses each day. It must be hell not having to account for any of it.
Brian Cooper, UK

Whilst it's questionable how hard individual MPs work, it is essential that the PM should be capable of coping with whatever situation arises. However, what is of more concern and should rightly give the nation palpitations is the fact that should Mr. Blair suffer further, we would look forward to one Mr. John Prescott taking the reigns! Get well soon.
Richard Philips, UK

I don't think any one of them have their feet in the real world
Demands of the job but softened with long holidays, incredible salaries, lengthy business lunches, just look at the weight problem most of them have! Best available accommodation if away on conferences, I don't think any one of them have their feet in the real world so how can they be expected to represent the ordinary people!

Mr Blair is probably overworked. After all he is trying to run Iraq as well as the UK. His responsibility of course.
John Lawton, UK

Am I alone in thinking that the real interest in all the coverage of Mr Blair's not very interesting tachycardia problem was that Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which used to be considered a world leader and flagship for this country, has been run down under this government to such an extent that they would send a 'VIP' emergency admission 40 miles to Hammersmith to ensure the first class treatment to which all local residents should be entitled?
Lynn, Bucks

Tony is perhaps working too hard, but this is probably an attempt to repair the numerous mistakes he has made in recent months. As for the rest off the politicians, aren't we still debating a ban on fox hunting? Whilst crime is soaring, taxes are rising, public transport is dying. How many years has that been going on? Politicians in general are under-worked and overpaid. Tony hope you get better though because I don't want to see you take the easy way out of retiring due to ill health rather wait and see you leave office due to public dissatisfaction.
Dale Wilson, UK

Bet Mr Blair didn't have to go through a time consuming interrogation with NHS 24 to get a doctor out of hours. I had to make calls to 3 different numbers to try to get a doctor for my grandmother before I eventually gave up and dialled 999.
Audrey, UK

Mr Blair seems to be suffering a common managerial problem. Failure to delegate. Whether this is because of the inadequacy of his ministers or due to his own insecurities the results will continue to be stressful.
Lorraine, UK

You have to give it to Tony Blair, he puts 100% into running this country
Nick, UK
Tony Blair does. The rest of them, I'm not so sure, but you have to give it to Tony Blair, he puts 100% into running this country and doing his best.
Nick, UK

So he does have a heart! Let's hope he didn't have to wait too long for a bed, or to see a doctor.
Anon, UK, Birmingham

They don't work too hard, they do work hard though. They know what they are getting into when they stand for election. Tony Blair had an irregular heart beat, hardly a major problem in today's medical terms.
Ian Simmins, UK

People who complain about politicians not working hard enough are ill-informed. My father is a backbench MP. It is literally a full-time non-stop job. If he wants a day off (including Sundays) he has to book it weeks in advance and clear his diary. It is impossible for MPs to maintain a normal personal or family life, even if they are not aspiring to senior posts. When Tony Blair is accused of hiding from domestic criticism for trying to spend a couple of weeks on holiday, it's no wonder his health suffers. Of course politicians should work hard, but we should remember that they are human.
Catherine, UK

We all work too hard! I hope this might be a wake up call for Tony Blair, that things like the European Working Hours Directive have a definite place in our lives and that everyone, not just politicians, is at risk of stress. We should ALL be protected by law from overworking.
Nick, UK

What a ridiculous suggestion. Politicians are rarely seen in parliament, have an obscene amount of holiday and are always swanning around the world at the tax payers' expense. They should try what the rest of us have to put up with, then they would no what real work is. If a politician's life was that bad there wouldn't be such a queue to get in to the job.
Keith, UK

I oppose his stance on Iraq and he should certainly delegate much more but credit where it is due
Duncan, The Netherlands
I agree with Nick but I think Keith should put his prejudices aside for a moment. Many politicians are as Keith says, but Mr Blair has given us - and is giving us 110%. That additional 10% will catch up with him. He puts his heart and soul into his job. Make no mistake - I am not blind to his failures. For example I oppose his stance on Iraq and he should certainly delegate much more but credit where it is due. He is an amazingly dedicated and hard working man. Get well soon Mr Blair.
Duncan, The Netherlands

I agree with Keith, MP's do get long breaks and many have unreliable attendance figures. Perhaps they should adopt the same working practices as the rest of us, this would spread out their work load across the full year and perhaps reduce the stress.
David, UK

Unfortunately they do. They spend altogether far too much time interfering with too many aspects of our lives. We would all be much better off if the politicians shut up shop and went home for the majority of the year. We have altogether far too many laws already and do not need any more to be passed - we should extend this to vetoing as many EU Directives as possible before there is any necessity to pass the into statute law.
Chris Davison, UK

This is a little bit off topic but how long do you think Mr Blair had to wait in A&E? Even with a minor problem like his, I doubt he had to wait the 4+ hours a friend of mine had to wait with her hurt and upset child to get medical attention. I wonder if he got one of those deli counter style tickets and then had to wait several hours in the company of drunken yobs? I doubt it!
Paul B, England


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