The Cheltonian > Articles

Martin Horwood MP


Christmas is coming and the usual delicate negotiations are underway. Who’s going where on Boxing Day? Brussels sprouts or no Brussels sprouts? Exactly how long should that letter be for Father Christmas? Where can you get Earth’s last remaining new variant on Xbox or Nintendo DS or Wii?

For the more spiritually inclined, the question is how to make the original message of Christmas heard through all the sparkling consumerism? For local business, the question may be just how sparkly the consumerism is going to be this year? The economy is still tentatively creeping its way out of recession. Will the Christmas season deliver good cheer or mouldy chestnuts? For Cheltenham Borough Council, the question may be how much sparkle and pizzazz they can really afford to lay on as the public spending cuts bite. The Christmas lights may be reduced to a couple of low-energy light-bulbs.

For some it’s not going to be such a happy time. For those facing hard times, uncertainty or change, whether or not it’s related to public spending cuts or the recession, the general bonhomie at this time of year is always rather double-edged. I always try to take the time out of delivering my traditional MP’s Christmas card to spend some time volunteering with Cheltenham Open Door. It’s a wonderful local charity that looks out for some of Cheltenham’s most vulnerable citizens, particularly those who are homeless. We serve up lashings of wholesome Christmas nosh but I also get to chat and play draughts. It’s generally a very happy, positive occasion but I’m always struck by how unpredictable someone’s fall from quite normal daily life into poverty and homelessness can be. And I always get thrashed at draughts.

Others will be worrying about loved ones serving in Afghanistan or elsewhere. We owe a special thought to all the brave soldiers and many civilians who put their own lives at risk so that we can enjoy a safer, better world.

Politicians will be pulling crackers like everyone else. Christmas lunch at the Milibands might be a bit tense after Ed beat his brother David to the Labour Party leadership, despite losing the vote amongst both party members and MPs. I’m not sure if Nick Clegg and Miriam González Durántez will be handing out presents on Christmas Day or in Spanish style on 6 January but they’ll be happy as long as no-one mentions tuition fees. Dave and Samantha will be relaxing too although I bet the PM will be asked his opinion on frocks for the Royal Wedding. Don’t say, Dave, don’t say.

I hope Prince William and Kate Middleton will enjoy Christmas too but it will now be in the full glare of the world’s media. If the last Royal Wedding of a future King is anything to go by, all those mugs, bunting, souvenir special edition mags and books and DVDs, periscopes, hats, cards and flags might well accelerate our economy out of recession all on its own.

Happy Christmas all!

To contact Martin, ring 224889, email or write to 16 Hewlett Road, Cheltenham GL52 6AA. Cheltenham Open Door (registered charity number 1063434) welcomes donations which should be sent to Cheltenham Open Door, 39 Grosvenor Street, Cheltenham GL52 2SQ.