Buried among the more electrifying revelations about Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is the mildly disturbing fact that she gets up at 4.30am every day. Of course in Anchorage, where Palin lives and where sunrise shifts from 4.20am in summer to 10.15am in winter, alarm clock settings may be regarded as a mere matter of personal perversity.
There is, however, a marked tendency among politicians to get up way too early. Condoleezza Rice wakes up at 4.30am every day to go to the gym. George Bush is a famous early riser, but prefers to be tucked up by 9pm. Margaret Thatcher got by on less than five hours' sleep a night. Gordon Brown is at his desk at six every day, and he lives above the shop.
There are several reasons why a politician may wish to keep farmer's hours. Sometimes you might be in the middle of prosecuting a big, not entirely successful war in a distant country where, because of the time difference, the action starts early. If you are trying to demonstrate that despite your hectic governor/hockey-mom diary, your work-life balance remains in graceful equipoise, getting up before dawn to get stuff done is a simple way of cheating.
Not every politician shares this love of the vampire shift. David Cameron recently suggested that he would be "a different sort of prime minister" and that a healthy work-life balance might include the occasional lie in. "If you immerse yourself from 5am until 11pm, it so affects your balance, family life, your sense of who you are," he told the Daily Mail, implying that by getting up early Brown was doing something foolish and vaguely evil. And John McCain has recently let it be known that sometimes he sleeps until 8am. With hours like that, it's a wonder he and his running mate have ever met.