David Cameron's government is now so big that Number Ten has had to alter the furniture. Sue Cameron (no relation) reports in The Daily Telegraph that the Cabinet table is too small to accommodate the 22 fully fledged Cabinet ministers and nine or ten other ministers who also regularly attend. Nor must we forget the top civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, who sits next to the PM, or all the hangers-on (special advisers, etc) who line the walls.
With so many people needing seats, some have had to squeeze themselves round a separate, clerk's table. Now a 4ft-long section has been made to fit on to the coffin-shaped Cabinet table, originally commissioned by Harold Macmillan more than 50 years ago. According to one minister, it makes the table look "more coffin-like than ever".
"What a way to run a country!" says Sue Cameron. "No other country has such a vast, sprawling body at the top of government." The German coalition cabinet gets by with 16 members, Obama's cabinet with 17. Even the energy giant BP has a board of just 14, and last week an international law firm published research suggesting that the optimum size of boards in Britain (based on the top 20 FTSE companies) is 11.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
Admittedly, the trend isn't new (Gordon Brown's Cabinets were also huge) and coalition helps explain why this one has expanded so much dishing out ministerial jobs has helped the PM in the tricky task of managing a restive Tory Party. But how can a Cabinet of this size, with more than 30 people, hold useful discussions, let alone concentrate on key issues?
It can't, thinks The Guardian columnist Marina Hyde. "It's hardly a new point, but nobody really believes Cabinet meetings affect anything. Their sole impact is driving sales of those plastic document folders that hide the text beneath them." The Cabinet, however, is merely a Westminster example of a malaise that "increasingly grips the world": too many meetings.
How right she is. The malaise is visible everywhere, including in newspaper offices. In the old days of print journalism there used to be one brisk meeting in the morning now everyone seems to be in meetings all the time.
Last month, Management Today reported on a survey of 500 office workers. This admittedly non-scientific research found that the average office worker spends around 16 hours a week in meetings, and that around a quarter of this time is wasted. That's four hours a week of pointless meetings, which adds up to more than 200 hours a year.
"I keep thinking of that radical Dutch urban planner who did away with all traffic lights in various towns, and found road safety dramatically improved," says Hyde. If only David Cameron did something similarly radical. "Imagine if he could announce that for one week all meetings in all workplaces in Britain were to be banned." It's not a bad idea. It might even boost the economy.
Tabloid money: Italian glamourpuss and her seven-figure divorce
I feel sorry for Nancy dell'Olio, says Amanda Platell in the Daily Mail. "After four years of legal wrangling, the eternally youthful Italian glamourpuss has finally settled her four-year fight over money with former partner Sven-Goran Eriksson.
When their relationship collapsed, Nancy claims Sven told her that he would look after her financially, but then reneged on the deal. She refused to move from the £3m Belgravia home they once shared until an agreement had been reached and has eventually settled for a payment said to be in the region of £2m."
It's a lot of money, yes, but Nancy "arguably spent the best years of her life with Sven" and in the end "was treated as little more than a nuisance tenant". She left her husband for him and moved country for him. "Hers is a cautionary tale for all women that marriage is the only relationship which offers any kind of security. Without it, you can be jettisoned like last week's garbage."
True, she got a seven-figure settlement, but so she should: it was Nancy who turned Sven into a true celebrity "with an earning power that most [football] managers could only dream of".
"Unite union boss Len McCluskey says Ed Miliband will be the next PM if he's brave enough to go for something radical'," says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. But "no one. wants to go back to the bad old days when power-mad militants like McCluskey ruled this country. This is a man who said last week that Unite having donated £8,425,000 to the Labour Party since 2010 was entitled to demand sackings from the shadow cabinet. Even more terrifyingly, that it should be allowed to dictate Labour policy. And we all know what kind of policy that would be one that's fantastic for him and his members but not for everyone else."
OpenAI – corporate drama unleashed
OpenAI, the firm behind ChatGPT, was in uproar as its boss was booted out, briefly snapped up by Microsoft and then brought back again.
By Dr Matthew Partridge Published
Can Lidiane Jones be Bumble's perfect match?
Dating app Bumble is taking on Lidiane Jones, a well-regarded leader in tech, as its new boss. Can she work her magic in a new arena?
By Jane Lewis Published