Do the Iraqis like our gifts, Daddy?

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"LOOK, DADDY, on the telly - a star in the East! It's glowing, Daddy, and moving across the sky over those houses. Is that Bethlehem, Daddy?"

"Not exactly, son, but it's in the right direction. It's not so much in the East as the Middle East. And, although that thing in the sky looks like a lovely star, it's more like a sort of very big firework which has been specially made by our friends in America. We call it a `cruise missile'."

"And is it bringing peace and goodwill to all men like the star in the East, Daddy?"

"In a way, yes. It's bringing peace and goodwill to almost all men - to all men who do what we say. You see, over there in the Middle East, there's a very bad man. He's a brutal dictator and the enemy of all decent people in the world."

"A bit like Herod?"

"Oh, much, much worse. Herod only killed the first-born. This man would kill the second-, third- and fourth-born if he had the chance. He stamps on kittens and eats goldfish alive. So when the Prime Minister explained why gentle, peace-loving countries like America and us had no alternative but to drop bombs on him, he said this horrid man is not just a danger to his own people but also to his neighbours. In fact, he wants nothing less than world domination."

"How would he do that, Daddy?"

"We're not quite sure, but we do know that he's very ruthless. He's got these things called `weapons of mass destruction'."

"Not like our cruise missiles?"

"Goodness me, no. Cruise missiles are nice, Christmassy weapons. They have been specially designed not to harm innocent civilians. They even sound nice, don't they? Like something from a holiday brochure."

"Because it would be really unfair if we ended up killing and maiming women and children and old men at Christmas time. I'm so glad we didn't do that."

"So am I. In fact, the only civilians who were killed were those who got in the way - and we really can't be blamed for that. Our bombs may be smart but they aren't geniuses. And, you know, just to make it all better for the people we were bombing, Tony Blair said that our quarrel wasn't with them personally but with their horrible leader. So, to show how sincere he was, he stopped destroying their country in time for their religious holiday. It was a sort of Christmas present from us to them."

"Our teacher says that the Christmas message is not just about Jesus. It's about everyday life."

"And he's right, son. Thanks to our caring government, we're enjoying a people's Noel. Even the Christmas message is on-message."

"Except that these days we don't have any shepherds."

"Of course we do. And very important they are, too. Just because most Welsh hill farmers don't have a flock to watch by night on account of having been exploited by the supermarkets and abandoned by the Government, it doesn't mean that no one cares. Like so much of our country heritage - the skylark, the fritillary, the humble water vole - they shall receive the traditional Westminster gift of warm words."

"Those will be the tidings of great joy."

"Of course. And a great and good angel for our time called Rupert Murdoch will deliver to the people the gifts of the Three Wise Men, Cook, Mandelson and Blair. And all the glittering stars - Liam Gallagher, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Dawn French - will sparkle and bring light to Downing Street."

"And will all the little children gather round, Daddy?"

"Almost all the little children. Those that have been very naughty have had to be locked up in our first prison for children down in Kent. They'll be getting a yuletide cuff round the ear from the Group Four security guards who have been told to use "basic and advanced control techniques" if the 10- and 11-year-olds don't get into an appropriate Christmas spirit."

"Giving to others and praying?"

"That, of course. But the on-message Christmas spirit involves bolstering the enterprise culture by spending as much money as possible, getting good and bloated on the day and then worrying a bit about those less fortunate than blah-di-blah-di-blah as we digest our Christmas dinners."

"So is it really true that all our leaders are getting holier and nicer and more caring?"

"Why, yes, son. I do believe it is."

"That would explain why someone on the telly was saying that most of the people working for Western governments have spent much of the last year or so on their knees. There was a man called Davies on Clapham Common and, in the White House, there was a lady called..."

"Yes. Now where did we put those mince pies?"