Politicians at Christmas: Richard Leonard

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 19 December 2018 in Inside Politics

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard tells Liam Kirkaldy about how his approach to Christmas has changed

Image credit: Richard Leonard

How do you approach Christmas Day?

The routine has been that we host Christmas Day at our house. So my wife’s sister and her family come over and we celebrate Christmas at home, then on Boxing Day or the day after we travel to Yorkshire to visit my mum and my two sisters and their families for a couple of days.

Have you started your shopping?

Yes, of course I have. It requires planning and forethought. I’ve bought a few things, which I have hidden away, but I’ve still got a lot which I still need to get. It’s just a matter of grabbing an hour or two between now and Christmas. But I’m a great one for lists, so I try and send a list out to my sisters and I try and get lists from them about what they want and what their family wants.

That’s very organised.

Well, the best laid plans don’t always come off, but I prefer it that way. One of the reasons for planning it is to try and avoid incidents where I buy something they really don’t want.

Has that happened?

I don’t think I have – not knowingly anyway – but I’m quite sure that there will be lots of examples down the years… when I was young and first started buying presents for people, I would tend to buy presents that I would want, rather than what they might like.

How has your view of Christmas changed over the years? Was it something you enjoyed more as a child?

I remember the enchantment of Christmas when I was a kid. I remember one year I got up at two in the morning with my older sister – I must have been about seven or eight – and we unwrapped our presents. We were caught at about six in the morning and marched back to bed.

Did you regret that?

No, not really. I got a Hot Wheels set that year. That enthusiasm probably has waned a bit, but it becomes about a family get-together. Less about presents and more about spending quality time with family.

Do you find it difficult to switch off?

Of all the recesses that we have over the parliamentary year Christmas tends to be the quietest, so if you want to switch off or go away or be undisturbed, this is the one that gives you the best chance of doing that. It’s important, though I seem to remember last Christmas holidays having lots of conversations about who was going on which committee, so it wasn’t entirely trouble-free.

That’s not great for Christmas dinner.

[Laughing] No, I’m not saying that’s what I did on Christmas Day – I didn’t discuss it with my family! Who should go where or whatever. But I remember getting caught up in conversations about it.

Is there a big Labour Party party?

Yeah, we have a Christmas party a couple of evenings before parliament breaks up and then in the constituency office, we usually have a lunch thing too.

Does it get wild?

No, it absolutely does not get wild.

You wouldn’t tell me if it was.

[Leonard laughs.]

But what do you see as the meaning of Christmas?

The meaning of Christmas should be a time for contemplation, a time to take stock of life, it should be much less than it is about materialism, and the consumer society we find ourselves in. It’s a time for people to get together, whether it’s people from the same family or friends that live apart. And more and more in this age in which we live, families are spread over greater distances, so it’s a chance to bring families together.

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