Dilyn is more popular than Boris: what MPs’ Christmas cards really mean | John Crace

And so it is Merry Christmas … Like many people, politicians have been sending cards to support their favourite charities, only MPs’ favourite charities invariably turn out to be themselves, as their cards are carefully chosen to convey a subtext that portrays them in the best possible light. So here are what their messages really mean.

Dilyn sprints across a snow-covered No 10 lawn on Boris and Carrie Johnson's card
Dilyn sprints across a snow-covered No 10 lawn, in between the parties. Photograph: Pippa Fowles/No 10 Downing Street

Boris Johnson

Normally, prime ministers like to send cards of themselves surrounded by adoring members of their family. Unfortunately, Boris is unable to remember quite how many children he actually now has and the families he can name will only get together in a courtroom. A photo of Boris and Carrie on their own was rejected because the only pictures they could find were of the pair of them lying face down after yet another party while everyone around them is singing “Stand up if you hate Boris”. So in the end, the Johnsons ended up with a photo of Dilyn running through the Downing Street garden trying to avoid the empties, on the grounds that the dog was the only family member everyone liked.

Keir Starmer’s Christmas card from last year.
Keir Starmer and his wife clapping the NHS on last year’s card. This year he is clapping himself. Photograph: Labour

Keir Starmer

The Labour leader doesn’t appear to have made a new card. So we can only assume he’s gone green and is recycling last year’s in which he and his wife, Victoria, were pictured outside a redbrick house that may even have been his own. In 2020 both were clapping the NHS. Now Keir is clapping himself. After two years lagging behind the Tories in the polls, Starmer’s smile looks genuine. He has finally assembled a shadow cabinet that looks both credible and electable and his ratings are above Johnson’s. ‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Winners in Ed Davey’s Christmas card competition
Winners in Ed Davey’s Christmas card competition. Photograph: James Kieran Doran/Liberal Democrats

Ed Davey

The Lib Dem leader also toyed with a card of himself and his family – up until the point where the party focus-grouped the final three photos and nobody had a clue who Ed was. The best guess was “that supporting actor from the Hatton Garden heist” film. So instead, Davey organised a competition for schoolkids, with the winning entry a drawing of three elves serving at a soup kitchen. Unfortunately, no one has yet turned up for a free meal.

Nicola Sturgeon’s card unsurprisingly has a Scottish national theme
Nicola Sturgeon’s card unsurprisingly has a Scottish national theme. Photograph: Scottish government/PA

Nicola Sturgeon

A rather more subtle form of branding for the Scottish first minister. As well as Bute House, her official residence, the design also includes the Finnieston crane and SEC Armadillo venue in Glasgow, and the Scottish parliament building in Edinburgh, along with thistles and a Charles Rennie Mackintosh-style rose. The message is clear. Scotland is all hers and Westminster can do one. Another independence referendum is only a matter of time.

Liz Truss
Yule Britannia: Liz Truss. Photograph: Liz Truss/Twitter

Liz Truss

Oh dear. Oh very dear. The foreign secretary just can’t conceal her ambitions and seems to have no idea that everyone in the country – as well as in Westminster – is laughing at her ridiculous vanity. From her card, it is evident she is not just eyeing up Boris Johnson’s job but also the Queen’s. Sitting on her throne, surrounded by a union flag and an imperial globe, one-third of which is sure to be painted red, the co-author of Britannia Unchained – the definitive go-to 2012 book for rightwing Tories who believe the problem with the UK is that its workers are innately lazy – is now positioning herself as a latter-day Britannia. The empress in waiting. I, for one, can’t wait. She will be a disaster for the country – her synapses only intermittently connect – but a gift for sketch writers.

Rishi Sunak slides into Christmas.
Rishi Sunak slides into Christmas. Photograph: @PoliticsForAlI

Rishi Sunak

Much more sophisticated, yet still very much on brand for the other Tory leadership rival is the chancellor’s card showing his white-socked feet in a pair of sliders with “Merry” on the right foot and “Xmas” on the left. Plus a few baubles and a bit of tinsel. Here is a politician who knows how to laugh at himself while taking the piss out of the entire country. Look on the back of the card and there’s a link to his upmarket, luxury goods website – www.dishirishi.com – where you can buy the self-same sliders. A snip at $299.99. VAT deductible for residents of the Cayman Islands.

Sajid Javid

One for the connoisseurs. At first glance this drawing by a child from his Bromsgrove constituency looks like a Santa hat with radioactive eyes, but look closer and you will see it is the first artist’s impression of the Omicron variant. This is a card that says The Saj is on your side, is committed to slaying the mutant beast and can laugh in the face of adversity.

Priti Patel

Her original card featuring the baby Jesus in a capsized rubber dinghy being pushed back to France by a Border Force patrol is the subject of a dispute in the European court of human rights. In its place and in actual reality, the home secretary has chosen a reindeer drawn by a schoolchild in her constituency. Patel said: “The judges were impressed by the strong message that Christmas is the ideal time of year to take back control. The reindeer clearly represents Santa’s homeland, where we are currently building the world’s largest detention centre to house illegal migrants, such as the so-called ‘three wise men’ who are clearly just trying to get to the UK to scrounge benefits.”

Sadly, due to so many postmen and women being off sick with Covid, some cards seem to have gone awol. So instead I will suggest the cards I would like them to have sent: a naked Dominic Raab doing press-ups , the grainy CCTV image of Matt Hancock snogging Gina Coladangelo with the title “Forget the Grinch, Feel the Clinch” and a Grant Shapps card of him standing next to Michael Green and Sebastian Fox, signed “With best wishes from the three of us”.

These would all be collector’s items.

A Farewell to Calm by John Crace (Guardian Faber, £9.99). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

Read More: Dilyn is more popular than Boris: what MPs’ Christmas cards really mean | John Crace

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