Christina Patterson: Please stop telling us about your 'kids', and your feelings, and just do your job


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The Independent Online

Ed Miliband's son has asked Santa for a Hoover.

He loves Hoovering, apparently, and he loves the Science Museum, too, because the "home appliances gallery" is full of Hoovers. He's less keen on the Natural History Museum, because he doesn't like dinosaurs, but he does like helicopters, and has asked Santa for one of those, too. A helicopter on a nice jigsaw.

It wasn't clear, from the interview Ed Miliband gave, with his family, in the Daily Mirror this week, whether the jigsaw his elder son wanted was one of those hand-crafted wooden ones you get at nice shops in north London, or one of those plastic ones you get in Toys R Us. Or whether the Hoover he wanted was blue, or pink, since all toys now seem to be blue or pink, or if it was a special unisex Hoover in a colour like, say, yellow. And it wasn't at all clear what Alastair Campbell would have thought about the Hoover, or the dinosaurs, or the jigsaw.

It wasn't clear, for example, whether he'd have thought that saying you wanted a jigsaw when every other two-year-old in the country wanted an iPad or a baby Ferrari would be a good thing, because it made you look like the child of parents who didn't think it was important to have expensive things (except, perhaps, a house worth 10 times the national average) or whether it would be a bad thing, because it made you look a bit strange. Or whether he'd have thought that saying you wanted a Hoover would be a good thing, because it made you look like the child of parents who thought it was a good idea to split housework equally, even if they didn't, or if it would be a bad thing because it would make you look like a freak.

It also wasn't clear what Alastair Campbell would have thought of the Labour leader's wife saying that she would be doing the Christmas cooking, but that "Ed HAS to peel the potatoes". It wasn't clear whether this would be good, because it would look as if her husband was happy to do a little bit to help, but only a little bit, which was much more masculine than wanting to do a lot, or bad, because it would make him look henpecked.

But Alastair Campbell didn't set up the interview that was meant to show that the man people kept saying "spoke human" actually was. He didn't tell him to say that his heroes were Geoffrey Boycott and Alex Higgins, and that he liked EastEnders and The X Factor, and sweet and sour chicken, and football and tennis and cricket, which Ed Miliband did say, and which Campbell would probably have thought was fine, but not to say that he liked A-ha and Desperate Housewives, which Ed Miliband also said, but which Campbell wouldn't.

But he did think it was important for politicians to say things like "what matters to me most is my family", which Ed Miliband also said, and Tony Blair used to say, and Nick Clegg often says, and so does David Cameron. He thought that people would like politicians more if they said that what mattered to them most was their families, as if it was quite unusual for someone to care about their family, as if, in fact, if you liked your family that would make you nice. And not, for example, someone who would hand on the country they'd been ruling, without being elected, to their son.

He thought it was a good idea for politicians to put photos of their wives and children, or perhaps pictures by their children, where people used to put pictures of the baby Jesus. He thought it was important for the person getting the Christmas card to know that the person who had sent it thought his children were more important than his job, even if his job meant he didn't get to see them all that much, and even though a job, unlike your children, is something you can change.

He thought, in other words, that what you said was more important than what you did. And that what people cared about was whether you went to the same kind of school as them, and whether you watched the same kind of telly, and went to the same kind of shops, and pubs.

They don't. Tony Blair went to one of the poshest schools in the country, and spoke in quite a high voice, and liked eating things like polenta, and was married to a woman a lot of people thought was weird, but he still won three elections in a row. David Cameron went to one of the poshest schools in the world, and speaks like someone who has never met a poor person, and is married to an aristocrat, and spends a fortune on things for his kitchen, but his party is still, after 20 months of very big cuts in public spending, six points ahead of Labour in the polls.

Dear Ed, and Nick, and David (and Alastair, just in case you're tempted back into political spinning, and Santa, just in case you exist and can do anything about it), we don't care what you eat and drink. We don't care what you watch on telly, or whether you shop at Ikea, or whether you fly easyJet, or whether you cry over music, or whether you like your children, or what they want for Christmas, or whether they like you. What we'd really like is for you to shut up. And get on with doing a job that looks to us quite hard. That looks, in fact, as if the last thing it needs is to be done by a "normal bloke".

Paris seems to need a certain je ne sais quoi

Woody Allen's most enjoyable film for a while, Midnight in Paris, is a kind of love song to the city of bohemian dreams. In a time-travelling quirk that anyone who ever dreamt of sipping coffee with Sartre will lap up, his hero ends up discussing art with Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. This, you were reminded, was the city of Gide and Camus, and of Breton, and Apollinaire. But now Paris will have a new star. His name is David Beckham. He's joining a club called Paris St Germain and will, apparently, bring the city "glamour". If "glamour" is being good at merchandising, but not being all that good at the thing you're meant to be good at, he will. But it did once, at least for some of us, mean something a little bit more.

Let there be lots of (very expensive) lights

When God said "let there be light", he clearly wasn't thinking about who'd foot the bill. He clearly hadn't thought, for example, about what you do when your budget's been slashed, and you have to choose between flashing Santas on the high street and, say, meals on wheels. But council leaders have. And some have decided that Christmas lights are a luxury taxpayers can no longer afford, and some have decided they're a human right. Islington council has decided to slash and save. Haringey has decided to spend, spend, spend. It wanted, it said, to "do everything possible to give traders ... a great Christmas".

What it comes down to, of course, is the argument that's dominating the Western world, of austerity vs stimulus. And the truth is that nobody has a clue. But happy Christmas anyway. //