Politicians at Christmas: Jackson Carlaw

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 18 December 2018 in Inside Politics

Acting Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw tells Liam Kirkaldy how much he loves Christmas

Some of Carlaw's puppets - Image credit: Jackson Carlaw

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Well, I have 68 stringed marionettes and I do a Christmas puppet show. That happens. We have a full stage set and there are six people involved in the productions. We would have various primary schools and playgroups, who would all come to the house, with a kind of converted stage set where we would put on the show. I did it every year until the boys were too old to do it.

But you’re saying that’s the reason you did it? For the children?

Yeah, I did it originally for my kids and their friends but then because we had set it up, we then said to the local primary schools and playgroups to come round and see it, and for a few years they did. No doubt if I am ever fortunate enough to have grandchildren I will do the whole thing all over again.

That’s really great. Could you talk our readers through a plotline?

Yes, it was like a big Christmas pantomime and of course, we had all the special effects, and a selection of 68 puppets to work our way through. There were usually five set changes and it always finished with a big Christmas scene. It usually involved a typical pantomime plot, and the kids would all sing ‘You Cannae Shove yer Granny off a Bus’, rattling tambourines and all that stuff, so it was good fun.

I didn’t expect this. 

[Laughing] Is every politician not a frustrated actor? But I have to say, they’ve proved a very good investment because these marionettes are now worth a lot of money. I did quite a few of the voices, in fact, the old charwoman sounded very like Annabel Goldie.

Oh, you take inspiration from politics?

[Carlaw attempts to imitate Baroness Goldie]: “Absolutely.”

But you’re currently having a break from the shows?

Yes, I’m resting. But it’s funny because I still look at various things at Christmas with a view to putting on a puppet show.

What’s your earliest memory of Christmas?

It would have been very early 1960s and it would probably be what I have subsequently always associated with Christmas, which is large family gatherings. So it would be Christmas at my grandparents. They had a tree which they would bring out every year. It was a real tree, but it had lost every one of its pine needles. They kept it and put cotton wool and old-fashioned bulbs on it.

Why didn’t they get a new tree?

[Laughing] I never thought to ask, I was too young. But my mother was very into all of that too. She created a kind of grotto in the main hall of our house, with a life-sized, papier-mâché snowman that she built. She contrived to get fake snow for the ground, which in the sixties was very avant-garde.

Is it fair to say you’re quite enthusiastic about Christmas, Jackson?

Oh yes, it’s become something of a family embarrassment. I remember friends saying that if my wife and I ever got divorced, the hardest thing would be the judge deciding who got which Christmas decorations.

In a way, it feels like you are maybe trying to recreate the magic of childhood in the way you approach Christmas.

Well, I tried to do that for my own children, but I’m not sure what my excuse is now, given they are in their twenties! But if I didn’t then everyone would be very disappointed. Everyone likes to make fun of it, but there’s an expectation as well. I recognise that there will come a point when it changes, but I think everyone quite likes the fact it is traditional in its way, for as long as it can be.

I think you should get the puppets back out the box.

You know, I actually promised Ruth [Davidson] I would put one of my puppet shows on for Finn when he’s two or three.

Was she pleased about that?

She smiled…

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