Politicians at Christmas: Willie Rennie

Written by Tom Freeman on 20 December 2018 in Inside Politics

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader tells Tom Freeman he is looking forward to a proper break

Willie Rennie at Christmas - Willie Rennie

What does Christmas mean to you?

It means, hopefully, no political crises, so you can just switch off, because everybody else just switches off. In the summer holidays, there’s always somebody around doing the work, creating trouble, which means you might have to break your holiday, but at Christmas, no.

Everyone needs a break.

here was one year when Emma Nicholson defected from the Conservatives to us in 1996. She was in Devon and I was in Glasgow but I was put in charge of smoothing her transition into the party. I had a cryptic phone call from somebody on a train who couldn’t tell me any of the names involved, only cryptic clues. I had to break my holiday.

Do you still see Emma Nicholson as the Grinch, then?

Well, she defected back to Conservatives, so yes!

What was Christmas like when you were a child?

I had three older sisters, lots of cousins, grannies and grandads and all that around. We had good friends, Edward and Brian, in the village and I remember one year they got new bikes, but I think they were second-hand bikes and they squeaked. They were up at seven o’clock in the morning and we had this yard outside the house because we lived above the shop, and it was ‘squeak, squeak, squeak’. We knew Edward and Brian were outside and we had to go play with them. My sisters would spoil me. I enjoyed Christmas.

Are there any traditions from those big family Christmases you continue now?

No, because my dad was a grocer, we were really busy right up to Christmas Eve and then quickly opened back up again, so it was a busy working time too. Thankfully, that hasn’t continued. We have parents round, and Janet’s family, for Christmas Day.

What’s your most memorable Christmas?

I think when I got a scooter. I remember seeing the shadow of the scooter in my room in the morning. It was one of these big ones, with big wheels. I still had the wonder of Christmas.

Could you keep up with the squeaky bikes?

No. Even though they were squeaky, they were still fast.

Have there been any disasters at Christmas, where things have gone wrong?

No. It’s always been a dream from beginning to end. I do lots of running in the hills, my dad likes to walk so we do that after our Christmas meal and just catch up with everybody. Smooth and relaxing.

A dream? Even the Brussels sprouts?

Oh no. I suppose I might be forced to eat them. I like the puddings.

What’s your political wish from Santa?

Just to have a period where we don’t try and tear up the country, one way or the other, where we can just put the identity divisions behind us. That’s my big wish, because it’s just getting boring now. Brexit is the English identity issue, independence is the Scottish identity issue, but it would be nice to have a period where politics focuses on real people’s lives.

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