Roger Ratcliffe’s present list also offers an alarming glimpse into the future

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Dear Santa,

Please look kindly on this year’s present list. I used to leave out beer and mince pies for you, don’t forget, and every Christmas Eve my dad had the chimney swept so you didn’t get covered in soot.

So let’s start with the biggest and best present of all. I’d like you to cancel Brexit. Given that the way we celebrate Christmas has hardly changed since the days of Charles Dickens, when the country always seemed to look deep and crisp and even, perhaps you can set the snowball rolling by arranging for ice-hearted Ebenezer Rees Mogg to receive a visit from the Ghost of Brexmas Future, during which this wretched Victorian throwback MP is shown the economic and social wreckage he and his ilk created.

You might start by taking him to areas that recorded the highest Leave votes in the 2016 referendum, places like the North East and West Midlands, which ironically the government’s own economists say will be worst hit by a hard Brexit. Perhaps we would never hear him utter those words “Bah! EU humbug!” again.

Okay, that’s a long shot. So try having Boris “Mr Bumble” Johnson spend time with our poorest children who, increasingly, are straight out of Oliver Twist. This shouldn’t be hard to fix. There are 4.5 million UK children living in poverty, according to a recent report. Their already dire prospects look even more dismal in the Britain envisaged by Bumbling Boris.

That idea’s probably a fanciful Brexmas turkey too. So here’s the best way to stop Brexit and bring Christmas cheer to millions. Either persuade arch-Leaver Jeremy Micawber Corbyn that something is not going to turn up to get him off the hook with his overwhelmingly Remain-supporting party, or replace Micorbyn with someone who is in tune with most Labour members.

Being a kindly gentleman, you might say that wild reindeers wouldn’t drag you into the cauldron of fire that is the Labour Party. But consider this. In my opinion two people carry most of the blame for this Brexit mess. One is David Cameron, obviously, for so blithely thinking he could swat the fly of his right-wing Europhobes with a referendum. The other is Corbyn for sitting on his hands and, for ideological reasons every bit as deplorable as the Tory right wing’s, failing to lead Labour voters away from the glaringly obvious Brexit cliff edge.

For my stocking fillers I’d like a few board games to make us laugh in these bleak times. A Brexit version of Monopoly should replace the “Go directly to jail” card with “Go directly to the M20 lorry queue for Dover ferries. Do not pass through customs. Do not collect £2000” (reflecting inflation and the plummeting pound once we’re out of Europe).

Then there’s Haven’t a Cluedo, in which players have to solve the baffling mystery of how 200 Conservative MPs continue to have confidence in prime minister Theresa May as she continues to deny Parliament a vote on her stillborn EU deal.

And if I’m not being too greedy I’d like the new Brexit Snakes & Ladders. Actually, there are no ladders. Players start at the top and the snakes – whose heads look like members of Rees Mogg’s ERG fanatics – accelerate the race to the bottom.

Merry Christmas!


Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him on Twitter @Ratcliffe

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