Simon Carr: Take a seasonal look on the bright side

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The Independent Online

The days are getting longer again, the worst is over. Every evening the dark is put back two minutes. This puts new heart into us. Let us face the new year with optimism:

Iraq will get better. Sectional interests will run out of hostility. Divisions will heal. Political factions will work together to create a prosperous, secure platform for the spread of democracy in the Middle East.

A doughnut will be developed that consumes more calories than it releases.

Al Q'aeda will relaunch itself with a name change from The Base to Homebase and reveal that the plan all along was to raise awareness for a global brand of quality home-improvement appliances.

Literary Big Brother will screen dogfights.

People quite suddenly stop using the phrase "no-brainer".

A record 862 people get to the second chapter of Ian McEwan's new Booker winning novel.

Parliament collectively decides that the status quo is a perfectly good option, that a two-tier service fits with the grain of modern life and that mediocrity will not just be tolerated but will become a target.

The American economy rebounds as trailer owners pay off their mortgages early with bequests from uncles they had forgotten about.

The Liberal Democrats choose a new leader.

Gordon Brown enters Strictly Come Dancing and comes third.

Clowns will be prohibited from frightening children.

Heavier than expected rainfall allows Olympic sculling trials to be held in the Mall.

Warlords in Afganistan apologise for their behaviour in 1842 and lobby the British parliament to send over 20,000 local government officers to bring order to their turbulent country along with diversity officials and smoking-cessation outreach programmes for all parts of the country.

The must-have accessory for Chinese workers will be pieces of English soil and they will pay truffle-prices for authentic samples.

Tony Blair releases text of his first confession. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have been too generous, too giving, too honest, too ambitious for Britain, too committed to excellence, worked too hard for peace and have put too much faith, trust hope and love in my fellow man."

Following her astonishing parliamentary attack on second-rate politicians in general and on Hazel Blears in particular, Gwynneth Dunwoody is made a privy councillor.

The current account deficit is turned into a piece of Brit art and bought by Charles Saatchi for twice its nominal value.

Global warming reverses suddenly and the ice caps' advance is prevented by the greenhouse gases we have cleverly released into the atmosphere.

A collapse in house prices massively increases the supply of affordable homes. Georgian rectories will be given away with packets of breakfast cereal.

Realising that torture produces unreliable information, the authorities decide to stop doing it.

Sense and Sensibility is remade without the lesbian scenes, the rape or the erotic flagellation. The credits sequence does not feature the nude author pleasuring herself with a crucifix.

The Prime Minister, maddened by the blinding glare of flash photography, breaks free from his restraints and leaps roaring into the city. He climbs a skyscraper and beats his chest, snatching at his tormentors.

And best of all, we have a happy, prosperous New Year...

A talent to reign over us

The Queen on YouTube in her ninth decade. What a surprise she is. What a monarch we have. And David Starkey calls her an "uneducated housewife". He compares her to Elizabeth I but she had years of semi-captivity to devote to learning her five languages. Queen Victoria was impressively schooled as well but everyone who was properly educated in previous centuries was better educated than we are today. Now, no one's as well educated as David Starkey. But he's a housewife compared with the great historians of the past. He isn't fit to dust Maitland's picture frames. And if the Queen lacks Starkey's skills of cultural appreciation, Starkey certainly lacks her talent for being queen.

* This project of Denis McShane and Harriet Harman has been going on for some time now. They introduced it cautiously, talking a little vaguely about the need to "tackle the demand side of prostitution"; they didn't say exactly what they were after. Now, in stage two, it's becoming clearer. They want to prosecute men who pay for sex. Why? They say it's in order to tackle the problem of trafficked women.

But that's daft. Or at least, an absurdly roundabout way of going about it. Trafficking is against the law. Why don't the police just round up the trafficked victims, give them their air-fare and a lift to the airport? They're not exactly hiding, these women. They do advertise. Their phone numbers are, after all, quite freely available.

But more important, perhaps, why not arrest the criminals who have committed the existing offence the trafficking?

If the authorities can't do that now, then creating a new crime isn't going to make things better.