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Poll pacts, true Brexit facts, plus an end to strikes and Suella: my wishes for 2024

This year, parties on the left must stop competing against each other

Image: The New European/Getty

Dear Father Christmas, thank you so much for my presents: another copy of Rory Stewart’s book was just what I needed, and I will try not to confuse the hot chocolate bombs with the bubbly bath bombs. However, I wondered if, in 2024, your hard-working elves would like to spread the load and get busy right away. In that hope, I’m sending my wishlist early.


This being a general election year, please could the parties on the left concur that it would be madness to vigorously compete against each other and risk allowing the Tories to sneak to victory? It would be a total dereliction of duty were they to deliver another term to this disastrous, venal, incompetent administration.

Voters could, and should, take the matter into their own hands, voting tactically to defeat Conservative candidates but, for safety’s sake, please ensure the politicians make it easy for them.

Luckily, Richard Tice is doing his bit to help, promising that Reform UK will fight every seat outside Northern Ireland, thus providing a home for all Nigel Farage’s fans and, all being well, siphoning off some right-wingers from voting Tory. But who wants to rely on Farage for a successful outcome?


Another election wish. Please ensure a massive swing against the Tories in Fareham and Waterlooville. That would see the former home secretary, Suella Braverman, ousted.

Reverting to her previous career as a barrister would not be an option – potential clients have all seen that her powers of persuasion are as effective as a feather barge pole – so the much-dismissed Braverman would soon be reduced to living in a tent, discovering that, as a “lifestyle choice”, it is not ideal.

She won her last election, but that was just to decide who should contest the newly created Hampshire seat. Her rival, from the “wet” wing of the party, polled 54 votes but Braverman only got 77. Even in wealthy Hampshire, people have lost the will to pay for membership of the Conservative Party. Defeat for Braverman at the general election would eclipse even the “Portillo moment” when, in 1997, Labour’s Stephen Twigg triumphed over the then defence secretary, Michael Portillo.


Please can we have some vaguely honourable resignations rather than having to wait for undignified dismissals. Michelle Handforth showed how it can be done: Network Rail’s managing director for the Wales and Western region announced in December that she would be stepping down after a series of train failures, culminating in passengers being stranded in total darkness, with no working lavatories, for more than three hours, and failing to see the joke.

James Cleverly should go and go quickly. For a home secretary to tell jokes about spiking his wife’s drinks shortly after announcing tough measures to deal with such criminal actions makes his position untenable. To plead in mitigation that the desperately unfunny remarks were only told to political hacks at a drinks party where conversation should have been off the record does not work. Home secretaries need to be able to think before they speak, even to journalists.


Could you provide a “Brexit Benefit Garbage Gong”, to sound across the nation when anyone tries to claim that life is getting better in the UK because we are no longer part of a hugely successful trading bloc. If one had been available, it would probably still be resounding from December 27’s ludicrous utterance from Kevin Hollinrake. The minister for enterprise, markets and small business declared: “Our exit from the EU was all about moments just like this, where we can seize new opportunities and provide a real boost to our great British wineries and further grow the economy.”

The momentous development he was announcing was the decision to allow wine to be sold in pint measures. Why wasn’t that plastered over the side of a red bus?


Bring an end to the doctors’ strike. The impoverished NHS is paying fortunes to locums and consultants to provide cover when doctors walk out. It must be possible to devise a solution that saves face for both sides. Temporary sticking plasters may normally be frowned upon but, in this case, it is what the patient needs.

Then there has to be a drastic rethinking of how a modern health service should look. Doing away with the term “junior doctor” might usefully be part of it: after 15 years working in the NHS, and sometimes even more, medics merit a bit more respect.


Stop everyone who is interviewed on Radio 4 thanking the interviewer for having them on. Clearly, this is now part of every media trainer’s manual but, while it may be intended to ease the way for the interviewee, it is deeply infuriating for the listener.

Not only is it a waste of airtime but it also gives the impression that what is to follow is simply a public relations exercise. That may often be the case but one hopes that guests are invited on to the airwaves because they can offer enlightenment, not self-interested soundbites.


Father Christmas, if you can deliver on these requests, all that I will want on December 25 is a bottle of champagne to toast a new spirit of optimism which I hope we will all enjoy.

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