I write to you all in the spirit of the new year, namely a spirit of revolution. Given your experiences over these past 12 months, this must surely be the appropriate moment to consider some suitable political resolutions for what promises to be a critical year. Here is some helpful advice from the outside.

You, dear Golden Virginia Bottomley, might do well to follow through the logic of your own Health of the Nation policy prospectus and resolve to ban all tobacco advertising. Forty-a-day folk such as myself have quit, in line with your warnings, which I suppose makes me a follower of government policy in this respect. So I hope you might give me a more tolerant hearing on this one than you customarily accord Newsnight interviewers.

Your department's 'Smoking Policy Unit' is consulting on the matter. Might I suggest, where the power of advertising is concerned, that it consults no further than Conservative Central Office?

To you, Michael Howard, I suggest some revisionist resolution over prison policy. All international evidence shows that locking up still more people only exacerbates the problem. And as for this idea of loading convicts on to a moored ship - well, why stop there? With Australia exhibiting dangerous republican tendencies, you could just send them there. It would be madness; then again it would be back to basics. A U-turn, please.

John Patten, please forsake this role as 'Honest John' who tells us that nursery provision cannot be afforded. Take No 10 at its word, and start making new year speeches to the effect that this kind of social and educational provision is something that we simply cannot afford to reject. You have shown your willingness to don sackcloth and ashes; now is the season for the emperor to don new robes.

Douglas Hurd, as the June Euro-elections beckon, resolve to be your own man over Europe. Don't try to appeal to the xenophobic brigade within the ranks - it doesn't become you and doesn't persuade others. Be positively robust about Europe, not negative and dissembling. In what may be an unhappy contest for your party, you might even find that this approach gains a few extra votes. It would at least gain you the respect you deserve.

Finally, to my own Secretary of State, Ian Lang: please resolve to be more Scotland's man in the Cabinet and less the Cabinet's man in Scotland. Talk to Douglas Hurd about what our Continental partners mean by federalism; realise that it involves the decentralising of power, not the opposite; and act accordingly in Edinburgh. After all, if devolution to Northern Ireland is seen as strengthening the union, why not the same for Scotland?

Basically, individually and collectively, all you have to do is stand on your heads. After that, life will become much easier.

With the compliments of the season.

Yours, Charles Kennedy

(Photograph omitted)