Two stories recently have left me wondering how much people really think about how much we spend governing this country.

The first was the news that Cambridge City Council are to buy iPads for councillors in a bid to cut down on paper.

The second the continuing battle to ‘save’ election night.

Of course Cambridge immediately attracted the ire of the Taxpayers’ Alliance who are always willing to jump on the band-wagon of condemnation. But before assuming this was just a way of councillors treating themselves to a new gadget did anyone do the sums?

I can see merit in it. I shudder to think how much paper I get through as a councillor, endless agendas, minutes and notes that are foisted on me by the town hall. While I’m a little sceptical at their suggestion of council agendas that are over 1,300 pages long just glancing at my in-tray I can see two sets of agenda papers that must weigh in around 300-400 pages together, and that’s fairly typical.

And it’s not just the cost of the paper (which on its own isn’t that expensive) but also the cost of printing and then transport – since moving agendas electronically is a lot easier and far more environmentally friendly than by car, van or bus.

None of this covers the potential benefits that a more convenient solution would bring. Being able to carry all the council papers may result in more effective councillors, able to make use of those spare moments because they can easily carry all their papers with them in an iPad rather than a trolley.

Do all these benefits outweigh the cost of an iPad every four years? I don’t know. I can play devil’s advocate and suggest they do, or go for a knee-jerk condemnation, but wouldn’t it be better to form a judgment based on some solid facts?

And that brings me to election night, where I’m not seeing the same condemnation of those in favour of election night by the Daily Mail and Taxpayers Alliance.

Now I quite happen to like election night. But I can see the point of those councils that want to wait until the next day. The quote in The Times article sums it all up for me: “We are not providers of entertainment; we are servants of democracy.” And he is right. I’ve argued before that perhaps election night isn’t the most important thing in the world. Political anoraks (like me) may love it. But does it really matter it the results have to wait a day. If speed was really all that important we should surely be going for electronic voting.

The fact is that elections are enormously expensive. Councils have to pay for room hire for all those polling stations. Then have to pay people to man them (it’s getting on for a 17 hour day if you are working in one). Then have to pay for all the logistics. Then have to pay people to stay up late counting bits of paper.

Aside from the overtime costs of election night it’s worth considering other aspects. Is 2am really the best time of day for democracy to be decided, which tired and bad-tempered candidates and agents arguing with equally tired returning officers? It’s not as if the new MPs have to be sworn in at 9am the next day.

And who, really, honestly, cares so much that they want to see the results coming in overnight. I would still contend that it’s only the political anoraks.

It’s fun, and I enjoy it. And tradition can be a good thing, our lives are punctuated by traditions that give it colour and meaning. But we have to recognise that traditions carry a price tag. If we are going to quibble over the cost of iPads that will arguably have a positive environmental impact and may well save money we must also ask if we think the huge cost of overnight counting is worth it to get results a few hours earlier.

It’s human nature to think that what is important to you is just as important to everyone else.

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt at university was after I left. I’d spent a lot of time involved in student politics – while politically neutral, it was full of terribly earnest people and I suspect I was one of the most earnest of the lot. Of course, it wasn’t long after I graduated I realised that, actually, I made very little difference (except on a few individual levels) and most people just didn’t care.

And I wonder if it’s the same with the current hoo-haa about ‘election night’.

I love election night. It’s enjoyable and exciting. I’ve been involved in a general election count for each election since 1992 in varying capacities. Each had its emotions and memories. The unexpected victory of 1992. Pride in the face of rather unpleasant jibes from the victors of 1997. A defeated candidate of 2001. Multiple re-counts in Battersea’s close run thing of 2005.

But just because I love it, does everyone else? People who are involved in politics think it’s great. There’s something special about staying up and celebrating or commiserating the results on an election night. Cheering the victories you like, jeering the winners you don’t (and these aren’t necessary based on political allegiances). But does anyone else? If you aren’t involved, or at least very interested, in politics could you give a stuff about election night?

It’s not as if the result is a surprise. Opinion polls will give a good indication. Exit polls give an almost certain result. The vast majority of people go to bed with a fair idea of the outcome and wake up unsurprised – and probably with a sense of relief the election is finally over.

One of the biggest drawbacks of election night is the lack of distance between election and new government. After a gruelling three or four week campaign, and full night of election results, the new Prime Minister must form his government and his new ministers start the administration… all while suffering sleep deprivation. Hardly the best way to do it.

Instead of having fresh ministers ready to discharge their new mandate with energy – we are run by politicians spending their first week in office recovering from the campaign.

So we have politicos supporting the retention of a tradition that relatively few participate in, and probably means we have a less effective government for the first few days than we should – just because we like staying up with a pint to watch the results.

I love election night. And can’t wait for the next one. But it isn’t perfect, and, frankly, aren’t there better things to be worrying about?