At this Christmas time probably more than most, after three years of Brexit and a long general election campaign, the last thing people reading this will want is another political article. But since long before our own childhoods, Christmas has been a time for stories, stories of Father Christmas and his elves or reindeers, stories of winter snow and wonder or simply of families coming together. The most famous is certainly Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. So, perhaps not with those magical proportions, I’ll give you a Christmas story and a true one at that.
The late Middlesbrough MP, Sir Stuart Bell, used to tell this about himself. Two of Stuart’s parliamentary colleagues were asked a similar question, “What would your wishes for Christmas be?” And they responded. The young journalist rang Stuart to say he was the last of the three but by no means the least. “So, Sir Stuart, what do you want for Christmas?” A busy Stuart took a few moments to ponder and gave his reply.
And so, the headline and story appeared in the local paper. “MPs’ Christmas wishes revealed: Mr X MP wants well paid jobs for all his constituents, Mr Y MP wants a world working towards true peace on earth.” The local community could scarce hold their excitement, waiting for Stuart’s response. “And Sir Stuart Bell MP tells us, “Oh, just a box of Thornton’s chocolates will do me.”
And the moral of the story is not to beware the false news which bedevils social media, although we should, but if you’re asked for a Christmas wish, think big for your family, your community, Rochdale and the world. Well-paid work for all would be great and Peace on Earth even better. But if you do get that box of chocolates, be grateful anyway. It is Christmas. So a Happy Christmas to you all and a great New Year in 2020.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on Thursday 26th December 2019.