PUBLIC figures send out Christmas cards to hundreds or even thousands of people.
My card from the Prime Minister dutifully arrived the other day.
It follows the American tradition of a family photograph, although this year it is just Tony and Cherie without the children.
Politicians’ cards are minutely scrutinised in the press for some deeper meaning.
Gordon Brown’s was a Christmas drawing by a child as a competition to raise money for a children’s charity.
Inevitably there is speculation that this means he is trying to portray a different image than the Prime Minister.
Michael Howard’s card attracted particular attention.
It is a photograph of penguins in a snowy landscape.
Unkind commentators have suggested that this is a metaphor for the Conservative Party, trapped in a remote and frozen political wilderness.
Even backbench MPs have to join the Christmas card bandwagon.
I buy most of mine in bulk from Oxfam, but they are signed personally.
The Prime Minister can’t possibly sign the thousands he must have to send out every year, although the one I received looks real enough.
I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t.
I would rather he spent his time running the country than signing Christmas cards.
But the story that U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used a machine to sign letters of condolence to bereaved families of soldiers killed in Iraq beggars belief.
Christmas cards are nice to receive but inevitably lose their meaning when sent out in bulk.
A letter of condolence should always be personal, sincere, preferably hand-written, and certainly signed by the sender.
By not bothering to personally sign these letters Rumsfield makes Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol character Ebenezer Scrouge look like the world’s most sensitive soul.
If I was the ghost of Christmas Future I would show him the sack!