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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 118 - Caught in a spin-doctors phantasmagoria


IN ALL my days, I have never had such a nightmare. I dreamt, in bright, Blakean watercolour hues, that - donít scream - Labour had won the general election, that the Tories, Liberal Democrats and other parties had been consigned to the outer darkness of political credence and that the great architect of new Labour - I believe some others helped to create the concept - could be seen, celestially-situated, with dividers, compass and spirit-level, planning our destinies in a quasi-Socialist, Tory-tinted, British paradise on this suffering Earth.

Lord, lord, what pain it was to see faces, wraith-like, in a miasma of dizzy, spin-doctoring, alleged cronyism and cash for favours as well as the great inquirers, Hutton, Butler and Budd, that ap-peared in Labourís turbulent ten-ures of office. In that fearful phantasmagoria, I thought I recognised Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One controller, the wealthy Hinduja brothers, the ex-Paymaster General, Geoffrey Robinson, Stephen Byers, once Transport Secretary, and his special adviser, Jo - "a good day (9/11 terror attack) to bury bad news" - Moore, as well as Peter Mandelson, pallid, plotting ťminence gris behind Labourís throne, the tormented, fast-tracking trio of David Blunkett, Kimberly Quinn and her nanny, and the turncoat, Robert Jackson, creating a Tory chorus of, "Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments."

Other voices keened about WMDs, dodgy dossiers fluttered and my dream ended with Tony Blair piloting the giant Airbus of state, the colour of whitewash, with nice but no-hope Michael Howard tinkering with his microlight policies to save the nation a few billion pounds.

In a semi-somnolent state, I wondered if I was the only Tory left between Cape Wrath and Carter Bar and whether I should apologise to the partyís leader for the backsliding behaviour of the benighted Scottish electorate. Anyway, my situation was not all bad, since I had at least enough sleep for a political dream.

FOR that I am grateful since, recently, I have been a fitful sleeper, perhaps affected by an insomnia epidemic which, according to a Prudential survey of 2,000 people, is causing four in ten to suffer sleepless nights worrying about problems that include work and family. For one in eight, insomnia is a regular problem and the biggest study of Britainís sleeping habits, conducted last summer by the University of Surrey Research Centre, found that, among 2,000 people, over one-third failed to sleep properly more than four nights, and that a further two-thirds slept badly at least once a week.

The blanket coverage suggests that part of the reason for the nationís night restlessness could be the 24-hour culture of modern life. All-night supermarkets, late-closing pubs, TV programmes screened until the small hours and the lure of the internet have led to a nation of bag-eyed, mind-numbed, body-clock awry, sleep-deprived zombies lurching into work, rest and play. While there are many causes for sleeplessness or chronic insomnia such as uncomfortable beds, stuffy rooms, noisy neighbours, snoring partners, depression, there is - inevitably - a gene called 5-HTT that could make its possessors prone to bed restlessness.

IN MY night-wakeful submission, sleep, which, as Shakespeare readers will know, "knits up the ravelíd sleeve of care", most non or short sleepers are probably worrying about rising bills, falling shares, value-decreasing pensions, near-criminal rises in council tax, pot-holed roads, NHS deficiencies and the arresting fact that many policemen not only seem younger, but appear to be tall midgets.

The author and playwright, JB Priestley, wrote: "Those Ďno sooner have I touched the pillowí people are past my comprehension. There is something suspiciously bovine about them." Bully for him. Before dozing-off, I let my mind wander along labyrinthine ways, selecting subjects of its choice that could make the raw material for entertaining and educational dream construction. I might touch on the thinning ozone layer, melting polar ice-caps, Scotlandís worsening weather or whether I should sell Consolidated Corsets and buy Hope Deferred which experts say, "maketh the heart grow sick": similar subjects, I imagine, occupy many minds in slumber rooms.

Then there is sleep settling. Sometimes, no position is satisfactory - left side, right side, knees up, face down, flat on back or one leg dangling over the bed that becomes less an object of rest and more an arena. Sleeplessness feeds on itself, recalling maddeningly insistent tunes, recollections of embarrassing situations and thoughts about thinking itself.

Tonight, I hope to sleep - perchance to dream that Tonyís bloated Airbus will be too heavy to take off and that Mr Howard, in a hang-glider, will lead the Tories to a soar-away election success. Iíve a mind to tell my subconscious, "dream on".


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