News from Nowhere: Christmas Carols
Whether you believe in Christmas or not, you might not help watching into some of the holidays' traditional movies with an eye for today's politicians. Some of them might even serve better main characters!
It’s that most wonderful time of the year once again, if you happen to believe in that sort of thing.
It’s certainly supposed to be a good time for the UK’s retail and hospitality industries, who’ve had high hopes for this first post-COVID December.
But cost-of-living challenges and icy weather haven’t helped business. Many restaurants, pubs and bars would have probably also preferred the FIFA World Cup not to have clashed with these annual festivities, but to have taken place, say, in the commercially quieter month of January. However, Qatar’s soccer tournament wasn’t to be shifted, and there was possibly even less chance of rescheduling Christmas.
Nevertheless, our radio stations are full of seasonal songs, and our television channels are bursting with yuletide movies. Yet again, for instance, the precocious young Macaulay Culkin, abandoned by his parents for the holidays, will deploy cruel unusual punishments to deter those who seek to invade his domestic territory. This is no doubt a favourite flick in the household of British Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a film which she and her whole family might like to watch back-to-back with Terry George’s slightly less festive drama Hotel Rwanda.
(Christmas had of course already come early for Ms. Braverman, who’d been fired in October, only to be reinstated a few days later in Rishi Sunak’s new administration. Mr. Sunak had also extended a liberal advance of holiday cheer to the duplicitous Michael Gove, reappointing him to his old job three months after Boris Johnson had dismissed him.)
But, back on our TV screens, and over on BBC2, James Stewart once more gets to experience what kind of a place the world would have been like without him in that Hollywood classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. There are some in her own party who might like to see that 1946 film remade with former Prime Minister Liz Truss in the lead role – those many Tories who’d rather relish the thought of a cosmos into which she’d never been born.
In the Truss version, of course, the timeless magic conjured by its original director would be overtaken by those absurd horrors of governmental insanity imagined instead by one of the twentieth century’s more disturbing creative artists – less Frank Capra than Franz Kafka, one might say.
Meanwhile, at this very special time of year, such hawkish Tory backbenchers as that gangly Victorian throwback Jacob Rees-Mogg will doubtless enjoy viewing the epic tale of one man’s heroic struggle to defend the bastions of corporate capitalism against a bunch of European miscreants bent upon relieving its treasuries of its hard-earned millions and accompanied wherever they go by the rousing chords of the perennial anthem of Brussels bureaucracy, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Yes, it’s that feelgood festive feature from 1988, John McTiernan’s Die Hard. Yippee ki-yay, Brexiteers, indeed.
At the same time, we might strain our ears to hear former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage joining Bing Crosby in a yuletide duet, as they both dream of a White Christmas – or erstwhile party-boy premier Boris Johnson accompanying Cliff Richard, Pentatonix and Johnny Mathis in a medley of ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, and ‘When a Child Is Born’.
And, while the nation’s pensioners provide a chorus of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, the second of 2022’s five British Education Secretaries Michelle Donelan might reflect upon her fleeting Cabinet career by reimagining ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ as ‘My Three Days in Office’, a narrative revolving not so much around ‘a partridge in a pear tree’ as a party in a pandemic – a season of rule-breaking revels during which ladies danced and lords leapt while, in the streets and shires beyond the Prime Minister’s residence, a locked-down nation slept and wept.
One might even be forgiven for envisioning how on Christmas Eve, as, ensconced in his candlelit counting house, he prepares to reduce public spending by £28 billion, and to reverse a set of outrageously generous plans for tax cuts, the austere personage of that fiscal miser Rishi ‘Scrooge’ Sunak might find himself visited by the spirits of his least illustrious forebears, ghosts of the four most recent Conservative Prime Ministers past.
First would appear a curiously shifting amalgam of an apparition, at once a strangely youthful and ancient figure, sometimes a beaming moon-faced man-child, his shiny show of innocence bearing not a single trace of a wrinkle or a regret, despite his oh-so-many failures and woes – then, the next moment, a broken grey-haired old woman, moving most awkwardly in a monstrously jagged, fitful dance – and yet melting once more into the demeanour of an infant – and so on and so on, flickering and fluctuating back and forth through their dual forms – returned from the inner circles of Hell to remind their latest successor of the hopes and pleasures of those days when their country was still at one with the great continent beyond the sea, before he and his cronies had chucked all that prosperity away.
Then would come the jolly blond giant of eternal festivities and infinite appetites, supping insatiably from his great horn of plenty, sybaritic, cheery, and unconstrained, bullish in body and mood, a party animal in every sense of the phrase, inviting poor Mr. Scrooge, not for the first time, to join him at his feast: ‘Come in! Come in and know me better, man! You’ve never seen the like of me before!’
And, last of all, the current Prime Minister’s overnight lodgings in Downing Street would receive the typically brief visitation of his most immediate predecessor, a spectral, skeletal vision veiled in a dusky shroud, the bleakest of all the phantasmagoria of his troubled fancy, seeming to scatter doom, misery, and great swathes of remorse all around her, here to show our hero the cold deathly grey wasteland that our nation might so very soon become, a dystopian nightmare precipitated by her mayfly reign of errors, hubris, and incompetence.
So, as our story ends, and having stood witness to these dire warnings, the new Prime Minister would renounce the severity of his ways, and pledge forever to honour the joys and kindnesses of Christmas in his heart and to maintain its spirit of magnanimity throughout the year, to share his vast personal wealth with those most in need, and to throw open his exchequer to sponsor the interests of the common good... and would at last cry out across old London town, God bless us, everyone!
I see you don’t think so. My sincerest apologies, dear reader, if, as I understand it, you find this too hard to credit. You say you don’t believe in Christmas miracles? Well, no, of course, not. Who would? It’s only a story after all.
Yet, if this all seems to stretch the far-fetched into the realms of utter farce, let’s recall, in this season of strikers striking and prices rising, that this strange madness has been the reality of British politics throughout 2022 – with our four Chancellors, three PMs, two Michael Gove(s), and a parliament at war with Downing Street.
So, whatever you may believe and wherever you may be, please accept these heartfelt British wishes of Merry Christmas, one and all! And wishing you, whoever you are, a most peaceful, prosperous, and pleasant New Year too!