Christmas open thread

No polls over Christmas of course, but here’s an open thread for those of you seeking to escape from Christmas preparations. Reflections on the year just gone? Predictions for next year? No need to stay on topic, but please do try and remain civil and rise above “Brilliant year for party I support and I predict that next year things which I would really like to happen will happen” ;)

162 Responses to “Christmas open thread”

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  1. @ Old Nat

    “Since 1999, we’ve had a few First Ministers, but only one has actually died (as in no longer being alive). While Donald Dewar was sometimes given the soubriquet of “Father of the Nation”, I can’t imagine that anyone suggested that he should have got a state funeral.

    When Alex snuffs it, I equally hope that he has a quiet family funeral. If he has actually led us to independence, however, I suspect that the machinery of state will, as usual, have distastefully ruled otherwise.”

    Jeez, I feel like I can’t keep up with you tonight (shouldn’t you be in bed asleep after nervously wondering what Santa Claus will bring you tommorow morning or something?). :)

    Anyway, thanks for the info. State funerals for presidents apparently have to have a great deal of advance planning.

    Apparently, the Canadians do state funerals for their Prime Ministers and Governor Generals. Opposition leaders don’t automatically get them but a Prime Minister can offer it at their discretion (which Stephen Harper did for Jack Layton). Premiers of Quebec seem to get them too.

    @ Bill Patrick

    “I’d rather they ruled that no prime ministers have state funerals. They’re not our heads of state, so having state funerals for all of them would be very odd and needlessly costly. Did the Viscount Melbourne REALLY need a state funeral? Is the world a lesser place because George Canning died without a procession?”

    Well they’re not technically your heads of state but they are for all intents and purposes.

    @ R Huckle

    “Who do Southern Californian Liberals blame then?”

    Same as the others. Except no one takes us seriously when we threaten to move to Canada.

  2. Hoi you!

    How did you suddenly appear in my bedchamber? ………..

  3. Old Nat,

    Somehow Christopher Lambert was terrible and brilliant at the same time. Tis only the Auld Alliance that makes me say that. Connery’s Spanish Peacock was Bond again with a slight whiff of Rioja….
    Good film though :-)

  4. And you’ve got to admire the chutzpah of the casting agent: “No, listen to this – we’ll get Lamberrrrrrrt to play a Scotsman, and Connery to play an Egyptian Spaniard. Next to each other!”


    Anyway, Merry Christmas

  5. okay Christmas Day.

    Present from 14 year old daughter:

    extra large sweat shirt with a blue smurf and NERD in huge bright yellow letters.

    How we laughed. She ain’t going out for a year, at least.

  6. @NickP,

    Respect to your teen. A girl with the courage of her convictions. She’ll go far (although possibly not far from the house).

    On State Funerals,

    I think the criteria for state funerals (other than top Royals) should be independent of political positions.

    Someone who has made an extraordinary contribution to the safety and/or wellbeing of the nation should be considered, against extremely stringent criteria. Churchill would qualify. So would Wellington (even if he’d never become PM). Noone I can think of in the post-war era would qualify. No state funeral for Thatch.

    As for Prince Charles, I think the public will be fine with him as King when the time comes (long may it be delayed). Most of the people who would have seriously balked at a divorced King are dead now. And given the disparity between the life expectancies of male and female Windsors, I think everyone would assume it was a temporary post anyway.

    Republicans may hope Charlie sinks the Monarchy. I think it is a much tougher beast than that.

  7. Socal

    Love your Liberal cow. I can’t claim credit for those I posted. My son had just emailed it to me and I just thought it might provide a smile at Christmas for everyone.

    Surely the reason why State funerals are for US Presidents & not normally for UK Prime MInisters is to do with the fact that the latter is not a Head of State, whilst the former, is? That position in the UK, is held by the reigning Monarch.

    I suspect that Churchill was given one because he saved the country from Hitler & his stormtroopers. He was certainly largely reviled during the 1930’s, even by his own party and described as a ‘warmonger’. History proved him right and thankfully he did not go off in a sulk in our hour of need. Having led the UK to victory, (with some belated help from the US) the people were so grateful that they voted him out of office as soon as they could in a massive landslide victory for the left.

    Thatcher of course saved us from Scargill & his stormtroopers and and once again the country was so grateful they effectively kicked her out; perhaps that is why she is being considered for a state funeral. Can anyone remember what it was like in the UK between 1976 & 1979? Harold Wilson saw it coming and quickly retired to the Lords and gave Callaghan the poisoned chalice.

    Had Thatcher not defeated Scargill I dread to imagine what kind of a country we would be living in now. North Korea springs to mind.

  8. Robert

    Talking about the right demonizing left-wingers. Thatcher not winning the miners strike would have led to a Kim jong dictatorship in the UK??!!?!? Seriously this tops even the most rabid ranting of the leftys

  9. Thought for the day.

    Is Santa Claus a socialist, communist or a Conservative liberal ?

    Found the answer below online which I found a little amusing.Not strictly a direct answer to the question, but thought this might trigger a light hearted debate. Although probably some of the regulars may have this mini debate same time every year !

    – Well, he is not a capitalist, because he does not charge money.
    – He is not a socialist, because his shop is not owned by the “state”.
    – He is not a communist, because his shop and facilities are not run as a commune, and there is no indication that his workers receive any compensation, healthcare or any other necessary services.
    – That leaves dictatorship, as his underlings jump to do whatever he asks, he makes exorbident claims about his abilities, wears a uniform, has a beard, and places his workers in facilities that are so isolated and desolate that they could not hope to escape to a better life.

    So when you hand out the presents to your kids, remind them that Santa may be a dictator who employs his workers on slavery terms. Perhaps they may ask Daddy/Mummy to return the present to Santa.

  10. Nothing wrong with a big funeral of great pomp for the likes of Prince Philip or MrsThatcher, but not a state funeral. Mrs Thatcher must not have a state funeral, she was not queen. That appalling precedent would make it needful to have state funerals for Major, Brown, Blair even Cameron, otherwise its just political bias and would bring the entire thing into massive massive disrepute. It should be for the head of state only, I don’t even think it should have been for Winston Churchill or Princess Diana. Otherwise taken to its populist inevitable conclusion where does it end – England football captain, Coronation Street actor, XFactor winner? Who is to decide? A state funeral for such a divisive non royal person as Mrs Thatcher who is revered and loathed in equal measure in the UK might make the end of state funerals alltogether, I do not exaggerate.

  11. I think that it’s quite fun and inevitable that each of us incorporates his or her own political slant into predictions for the coming year. I don’t think that it’s possible to be truly objective with such predictions. So here is my subjective view of what will happen in 2012…

    1. The government will have a tough year but it will be even tougher for Labour. Ed Miliband will become known as Ed Moribund by his detractors as he totally fails to bite into the government that’s facing tough times.

    2. The economy will shrink in the first quarter but recover surprisingly fast from the second quarter onwards as commodity prices fall back, allowing disposable incomes to rise. Excluding tax rises, petrol prices will fall 10-15% in 2012 as oil falls back to $65-$70 per barrel. Other commodities, such as copper will also fall in price. The exception will be precious metals, with gold hitting $3000 per oz over fears about the world’s financial system.

    3. The euro will survive until a big crunch in September. Then it will be 50/50 whether it is rescued or whether it completely disintegrates. Possibly, it will split in three. The Eurozone will suffer an immense depression.

    4. The US presidential election will be very close, perhaps a rerun of 2000, this time possibly with Obama winning. I think it’s too soon to say who the Republican will be but I’d like to see Michael Bloomberg as an independent. That could upset everything and he could win some states.

    5. Putin will be forced to fight the Russian presidential election fairly and will lose in the second round. The new president will be very skilled at making Putin feel comfortable as the loser. Russia will move quickly towards full democracy.

    6. Robert Mugabe will either die or be forced from office. If he dies, there’s a possibility that Zimbabwe could move to become freer and more democratic. If he’s forced from office, things may go well but there’s an equal chance of really bad things happening, such as civil war.

  12. Jonathan, It’s nothing to do with politics. None of those you mention did anything to deserve a state funeral. Major was hopeless leader who sat on the fence. Blair led us into at least one illegal conflict & Brown almost bankrupted the country. As for Cameron, I don’t see him doing anything that would deserve a state funeral. He hasn’t even won a General Election yet!

    You were obviously oblivious to the tactics used by Scargills Flying pickets (storm troopers in another language) to stop miners and delivery drivers who wanted to work, from working. You don’t have to have much imagination to see how that would have developed if he had had the police & army under his command. It was terrifying enough for ordinary people as it was.

  13. R Huckle

    Surely he must be a charitable organisation in the best tradition of the Big Society? He gets no salary, his helpers are volunteers (who get free board & lodging) & he gives everything away for free.

  14. I don’t think that the Baroness is being considered for a state funeral. Isn’t it a decision for the Head of State? Why would the Queen extend that ‘honour’ to the Baroness? There’s no reason for it.

    Personally, I don’t care either way because Mrs Thatcher will be dead, so she won’t know what sort of funeral she gets.

    And when the time comes, if Ed is asked to comment, he should just say; an old lady has gone on her way. She was a politician of significance but he didn’t agree with most of her policies & he was still at school when the Tory Party fired her!

    I hope Ed has the bottle to do that, if it is necessary, use the occasion to remind her followers & her own Party that she didn’t go gracefully – they sacked her!

  15. “You don’t have to have much imagination to see how that would have developed if he had had the police & army under his command.”

    This was all before my time, but in what world was that going to happen?

  16. @ Robert Newark

    Your comment about the Miners’ strike is woefully ignorant & partisan. Because it’s Christmas, I’ll leave it at that.

  17. Independent:

    YouGov, which polled 1,723 people for the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society and the TUC, found that 80 per cent believe the private sector should forgo some profits to meet a wider responsibility to their employees, customers and communities and invest more for the long-term. Only 12 per cent think that maximising profits for shareholders is a company’s top priority.

    The British public want business to put “people before profits” and to see politicians close the gap between rich and poor, according to a new survey.

    The findings suggest growingsupport for “responsible capitalism” in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and bankers’ excessive bonuses – and public sympathy with the anti-globalisation protests such as the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’sCathedral.

    The poll uncovered markedly different attitudes among supporters of the two Coalition parties. Liberal Democrat voters are significantly more progressive than the average person –and on some issues are more progressive than Labour voters.

    Conservative supporters are almost evenly split on whether the rich-poor gap is bad for ordinary people, while 78 per cent of Lib Dem voters believe it is bad and only 14 per cent do not.

    The Coalition parties’ supporters are also divided over workplace rights. Almost half of Tory voters say employee rights lead to fewer jobs and a weaker economy but only 19 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters agree. While 46 per cent of Tory supporters think businesses would be more successful if they involved their workforce, that view is held by 74 per cent of Lib Dem voters.
    There’s more about this poll on the Independent’s UK politics page, if anybody is having withdrawal symptoms & needs a poll ‘fix’.

  18. @Robert Newark

    @R Huckle

    “Surely he must be a charitable organisation in the best tradition of the Big Society? He gets no salary, his helpers are volunteers (who get free board & lodging) & he gives everything away for free.”

    Bit of an upside down charity where the rich get the bigest,best and most and the poor get the least or none at all.

  19. set to eat turkey dinner in next half hour, open the presents and get ready for tomorrows charity event at blue bell hoby. hoping to raise £250-£300

  20. There’s a Guardian poll.

    C37 L36 LD15.

    Apparently the leader figures are good for DC.

  21. NEIL A
    Milliband needs to up his game …But he would take consolation that the Tory bounce seems to have gone…Good poll for DC when the economy is bad

  22. @SMUKESH
    Correction, Miliband can take consolation for nothing. The “Tory Bounce” has simply lifted the party from 5 points behind to level pegging. Despite the doom and gloom Cameron’s best of the three popularity is improving as things get worse. Clegg and Miliband just go on getting worse.
    Its all very well being all huffy because you don’t approve of these facts, but facts they are.

    BTW, I don’t know how old you are or what you do for a living, but I am quite old and have been a field grade army officer, and later a divisional director of a major financial institution in my time. I learned in both careers, that one makes ones own luck.

    I see that you have progressed well through your career…I assume you din`t become the divisional director in your first job…And so Milliband will live and learn…He made his mistakes in his first 15 months as leader and will adapt and make changes…The election is in 3 and half years and if he was 28 points ahead today (as Cameron was),it still isn`t going to make him PM tomorrow

  24. Yes-interesting Guardian ICM Poll :-

    Personal approvals :-

    DC +5
    GO -2
    EM -17
    NC -19

    “Good in a crisis” :-

    DC +10
    EM -23

    “the courage to say what is right rather than what is popular”.

    EM -2

    “which team is better able to “manage the economy properly”,
    DC/GO 44%
    EM/EB 23%

    A good way to end 2011 for DC .

  25. Happy Christmas Tide for all on here.

    The lane 1945 family did very well in the last 48 hours with grandparents as well, all attending packed Masses and then good food, sharing, laughter and memories.

    As 2012 approaches, I predict hardship for poor people, Chou, I dont think it is just people making their own luck.

    But the Ed Moribund line is a strong one. Maybe ‘The Party’ will be as strong as it was in 1935, when they appointed a Major to be leader.

    And in footy, tomorrow maybe we will see Reds on top of the League in England, and the Celts on top on Wednesday in Scotland!

  26. This latest poll particularly the section on ‘managing the economy’ is a shocker for Labour. Whilst Ed is obviously having difficulties himself with credibility I think he has a huge problem with Balls being his shadow chancellor. Every time Balls is seen on television or making some statement in the press, it just reminds the electorate of the economic shambles that the last government left. Miliband must ditch Balls if he is to make any progress in getting the electorate to trust Labour on the economy again. Otherwise Labour will make no improvement in the polls in this area.

  27. DINGO.
    I fully agree with your post.

    sadly some people cant improve much, and Ed is Ed, both Eds in fact.
    Intrinsic weaknesses are too strong.

  28. CHRISLANE1945
    17 months is not sufficient to make that judgement I believe and if the next twelve months show that he is not upto the task,then I would join those nay sayers
    As the governing party during a recession,Labour has a historical disadvantage…Also they are advocating a plan which is bold but scary..Unless the Tory plan fails,the electorate are bound to be wary

  29. Labour can always replace Balls with Reeves in a year or two if Labour’s economic ratings don’t improve.

  30. Colin,

    Not all good though ;-)

    The Guardian feels that the balance of respondents on approval “plunges” the coalition into negative territory.

    Oh, and there is a “crushing margin” of 59 to 34 rejecting that Cameron “understands people like me”

    For some reason Ed’s terrible stats aren’t worthy of quite the same hyperbole. I guess it’s why we all prefer to read Anthony’s poll summaries, and there is some reticence to turn UKPR into a cut-and-paste of the Guardian……. :-)

  31. Pointless prediction o’clock!

    1. By May the Lib Dems will have lost over a third of the councillors they had in 2010 after the 2012 locals due to a titanic wipe out in Scotland.

    2. Even though Labour will be 5-7 points ahead by May, Boris gets a second term due to his popularity in London, albeit with a reduced majority. Ken gets the blame for being too left-wing. Barnbrook looses his assembly seat. Greens gain one. Libs lose one or two.

    3. The BNP will cease to be a prominent force. Replaced by The EDL/BFP merger.

    4. Sadly, I predict more rioting which will see more intense violence between the police and rioters due to the use of rubber bullets and the like.

    5. We come dead last in the Eurovision song contest. With two points. From Ireland.

  32. And though it pains me to introduce a note of cynicism at such a magical time of year, this poll was carried out on 20th-21st December, yet it took until Christmas Day to release?
    November’s poll was carried out on 18th-20th November, same sample size, and released on 21st November.
    It’s hard to say that it’s a case of “a good day to bury bad news” – the poll is not actually much worse for Labour, or Ed, than recent polls from other pollsters, so I’m not sure why they felt compelled to wait until today……….unless the Guardian do think it’s really bad……!

  33. When Thatcher dies I am sure the reaction will be simply ‘Rejoice at that news?’

  34. @Hooded Man,

    I am at least as cynical as you, but my cynicism on this occasion leads me to think that maybe a nice little opinion poll was a cheap and easy thing to stick in the paper when most of the journos are on their Crimbo break….

  35. @Graham,

    You must find it terribly frustrating that half the country doesn’t share your confident belief in the Evilness of Conservatism.

  36. Neil A
    I have never doubted that there are many who admire The Antichrist and her inspirers!

  37. Three linked predictions from an economic event feeding back to the UK political scene

    Italy has three *big* bond auctions in Jan, Feb and Mar to refinance existing debt (statement of fact).

    Prediction 1 – on one of these auctions (I suspect the Feb auction) the Italian EU appointees will fail to borrow the money they need, and have to pay over 8% to borrow the little they manage to borrow. (one of the reasons I have used the above phrasing is because – if the Euro collapses – Italian politicians might use the fact that the apparatchiks were foisted on them to disavow responsibility for new tranches of debt, and this risk will make new debt lower quality than debt formally authorised by elected politicians.)

    Prediction 2 – After the Italian auction failure, Euro government debt ratings are further downgraded and interest rates increase. Greece and Portugal finally go over the precipice and default. At least one French bank (BNP?) follow Dexia into bankruptcy, and France suffers a further downgrade.

    Prediction 3 – The UK retains its AAA rating through the Euro debacle. This gives the Tories a boost of 3-4% to a persistent lead over Labour. What I can’t judge (can any Labour supporters offer an opinion?) is whether this is enough to force Milliband to sack Balls as the Euro area demonstrates the failure of the policies that the Balls household advocates.

  38. Chou

    I put it to you that the biggest slice of luck you ever had professionally was the Rooskies not invading West Germany. Do you take personal credit for that?

    If this situation arises,I would imagine Balls would change his position,just as Osborne admitted defeat in the Autumn statement…Milliband has not been shy to sack people though,ie,John Denham and John Healey who were doing a good job in the shadow cabinet

  40. Neil A,

    You could very well be right about the timing. And you may also be right about our respective levels of cynicism…….

    But in this particular case, I’ll still need some persuasion away from the view that this poll has been ‘sat upon’ for reasons other than Xmas holiday schedules…… :-)

  41. GRAHAM

    “When Thatcher dies I am sure the reaction will be simply ‘Rejoice at that news?’”

    What an odd stance to take. I rejoiced when the Tories kicked her out, on the basis that if we had to have a Tory Government foisted upon us, at least it wouldn’t be tied to her particular brand of revolutionary ideology.

    Why anyone (outwith her family) should care when a senile old woman, with no political influence, dies, is quite beyond me.

  42. Graham

    Correction to my above post.

    It would be useful if the UK media went into overdrive on adulatatory fawning on Thatcher in the run up to the the Scottish referendum. So I do declare an interest.

    She had considerable influence on driving forward the rejection of the Tories in Scotland. If her death completes the task of rejection of their allies (“Moore/Alexander, you shouldn’t have been so quick to step forward!” It was Murphy/Alexander I was talking about”) then well and good.

  43. There’s a lovely unpredictability about politics and polling. There’s our guru Anthony, coming out with a definitive statements “No polls over Christmas of course”, when KAPOW!, a poll appears to smack him in the psephological teeth. :-)

  44. Old Nat,

    Agreed. My (water) family, all of them incredibly well-educated, look forward to the day when she dies, as they intend to hold a party in celebration. I have asked them the same question you posed… seems some kind of “closure” is desired… me it just introduces a new slant on “red mist”……….

  45. About Thatcherism….

    Scotland didn’t mind the economic side so much. But it didn’t like the social side at all.

  46. A Cairns

    While that was one of Alex’s less clever comments (in terms of political response), I can understand what he was getting at.

    The idea of supporting consistently loss making industries, which had no foreseeable profitable future, was a policy doomed to failure.

    That period of economic policy that considered that central planning of the economy, and locating a car plant in Linwood as part of that, was simply inept.

    However, simply scthying the support for major employers and throwing thousands on to dependency status was equally inept.

    From a Scots point of view, her reliance on oil revenues to cushion the effect (and avoid revolution) by using oil revenues to create Job Creation Schemes and a massive increase in disability payments to disguise the unemployment figures, but massively expanding the dependency culture that Tories then criticise, has a particular poignancy.

    Structural economic change did need to take place, but it had to be managed with a view to the social consequences.

    Thatcher’s ideological war meant that the civilian population was the casualty, as in most wars. Leaders who make war on their own people shouldn’t expect to be well thought of.

  47. It’s odd that we blame Thatcher alone for the decline of the Tories in Scotland. They dropped more between 1992 and 1997 (after she was gone) than they did during the whole of her reign.

    Are the Scots so slow on the uptake, that they feel that Thatch destroyed everything that was good, but only noticed this a few years after she’d gone?

  48. Neil A

    There are two distinct phases to the collapse of the Tory vote in Scotland.

    Phase 1 occurred under Thatcher, when the remaining urban areas which had voted Tory, moved to voting Labour.

    Phase 2 occurred later when formerly Tory rural constituencies moved to voting LD or increasingly SNP.

    The “Phase 2” constituencies had not been directly affected by the destruction of heavy industry, but were affected by the “political narrative” that was the common parlance.

    Scottish perception of the Tories was that they had become an “English” party. It doesn’t matter whether that perception was accurate or not, many studies have demonstrated that as being the narrative.

    It must be difficult for many in England to understand, but Scotland has maintained a distinct political identity since 1707. We aren’t just “the North, but a little more so”!

    So to return to the Thatcher effect. Hostility was immediate in the urban areas. It took some time for that to transfer to the rural areas. Had Scotland had clever Tories, prepared to abjure Thatcher and (under Major) reverse her policies in Scotland, then things might have worked out differently.

  49. I hope you guys all had a great Christmas.

    I enjoyed cooking for my friend (she was amazed I could make chocolate pudding and whipped cream from scratch!). The fried chicken turned out well too.

    My Christmas traditions were in full swing too. I had a great Chinese food dinner tonight too. Found a great restaurant I’d never been to before and had some delicious spare ribs and crispy duck. The food was succulent and tasty and without an excess of fat. The prices were reasonable too (a nice change). Then I saw this extremely convoluted movie with Colin Firth in it about the MI6 in the early 1970’s and an attempt to expose a Soviet mole. I was lost throughout the whole thing. It was called the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

  50. So I’ve read a lot of you talk about your “head of state” and discuss the reasons to bury or not bury Maggie Thatcher. At the risk of being an ahole here, I would like to bring something your attention. Technically your “head of state” is the Queen. She is also, believe it or not, the “head of state” for Canada as well. Despite this fact, Canada gives state funerals to all their Prime Ministers and recently gave one to an Opposition Leader. She is also the “head of state” for Australia. Despite this fact, Australian Prime Ministers appear to receive state funerals as well.

    I can understand the sentimentality that supports keeping a monarchy and a royal family around. I can understand the the tourism reasons for keeping them around. I can understand how the most common criticism against them (they’re useless and don’t do anything of substance) is actually one of the biggest reasons to keep them around. They’re harmless and don’t actually threaten your democracy.

    But the one who acts as head of state and makes the decisions as head of state and deals with the stress and sacrifice that entails is the Prime Minister and not the Queen. Those who do that should be entitled to state funerals (unless they decline them). Thatcher may have been awful and she may have harmed a lot of people. Because the option to give a state funeral is apparently not given to Prime Ministers except in rare circumstances, I can understand the reasons to not give her a state funeral.

    But I hope that you guys would realize the extreme sillyness and pettiness of not giving state funerals to your former PMs. And I hope you guys would see that even those countries that carry on the fiction that your Queen is still the “head of state” (and they seemingly have far less compelling reasons for doing so than you do) find it decent enough to give state funerals to their Prime Ministers.

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