Article - Governing countries is a serious business

Governing countries is a serious business - because the wellbeing of great numbers of citizens depends upon it. But there is no direct relationship between the importance of an activity and the amount of interest it can generate. Quite a lot of the most important things which are done day by day in legislatures and ministries and cabinets are, frankly, pretty boring - at least for the purposes of newspapers and most of their readers.

There are, however, some patches of history which contain an unusual proliferation of interesting events. And we appear to be living through such a period of history right now. If anyone had told me in the last week of March 2015 that we would, two years on from then, be witnessing the start of the process to remove the UK from the EU, the publication of the White Paper on the repeal of the European Communities Act, demands from the Scottish government for a second referendum on Scottish independence and the collapse of negotiations to form a new power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, all in the space of one week I would have regarded this as a fairly fanciful hypothesis. And yet, this is precisely what we have seen unfolding before our eyes during the last week.

All of these interesting events are of course related to one another since it is the prospect of the UK exiting the EU that has, prompted renewed questions about the configuration of the UK itself, as some of us feared it would. As a result of the decision made by the nation as a whole in the EU referendum we are embarked upon a course of action whose consequences are uncertain and may be profound.

Of course, the art of governing (and of negotiating) over the next few years will consist largely in reducing the level of interest. The challenge for government and for Parliament is to find a way of realising the gains from our EU exit - above all, the advantage of being able to determine more of our own law - without disrupting either the trading and economic relationships upon which our prosperity depends or the stability of our constitution and of our domestic union.

If this triple act can be performed successfully, the result will be, in the very best sense boring. We must all do our best to help that boredom prevail.

Despite appearances to the contrary, there is nothing paradoxical about this desire for a boring politics. The ultimate purpose of politics is not to generate good stories for the newspapers. It is to enable the citizen to carve out an interesting and fulfilling life against the dull but happy background of stability and prosperity.