Is it just me or does Christmas get cancelled earlier every year? There really should be a law. No cancelling Christmas until at least the end of the British summer, which really should be starting any day now.
What Christmas will find especially hard to take is that it’s been cancelled for reasons entirely beyond its control. It hasn’t said something racist on a podcast, or taken the knee on GB News.
It’s been cancelled by Iceland, of all people, and all credit to them as well. For half a decade now, the same old dreary people have been harping on with the same dreary nonsense about Brexit. You know the repertoire by now. It’ll destabilise the peace in Northern Ireland, it will make us all poorer, it’s ruined the country’s international reputation. Trouble is, no one cares about any of that stuff, but tell them Christmas is cancelled and they’ll sit up and listen.
Which is exactly what the managing director of Iceland did, on the radio on Wednesday morning. There’s still a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers in this country, and we are now well into that part of the year when lorries are very much required to start building up retailers’ Christmas stockpiles, and it simply isn’t happening and that means, you’ve guessed it… In the words of Richard Walker: “We’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute and I’d hate this one to be problematic as well.”
Wallop. There it is. Christmas is not yet cancelled, but it might be, and there’s nothing more serious than that. In January of this year, you may recall, several thousand people “died needlessly” in the words of Dominic Cummings, in order to spare Boris Johnson the sight of one or two newspaper front pages accusing him of having cancelled Christmas. So you can bet they’ll be taking this one very seriously indeed.
A Brexit-cancelled Christmas is a more nuanced matter than a Covid-cancelled Christmas. Nobody wanted a Covid-cancelled Christmas, but if Christmas goes to sh*t for Brexit reasons there will, naturally, be plenty of people on hand to say that, actually, it’s exactly what they wanted and indeed voted for.
At some point, round about mid 2017 – when it became clear that there was precious little point pretending Brexit was going to do anything other than lower living standards – a worse quality of life became something to aspire to. By 2019, the priest turned columnist Giles Fraser was arguing that Brexit would force people to wipe their parent’s bums for them and that was a good thing, whether the parents wanted them to or not. The only good Brexit was one that was so economically horrific it would prevent people being able to leave the towns they grew up in (which in fairness, had it happened 2,000 years ago, would at least have made life easier for the donkey).
There can be no doubt that a cancelled Christmas would instantly become a real Christmas. A chance to get back to its true meaning. Christmas is actually better when there’s nothing to eat and you’re trying to explain to the kids that Santa is definitely real, there’s just been a bit of a mix-up and absolutely everybody’s presents have all been delivered to one lucky little boy who lives in a giant lorry park in Kent, but that the elves are working as hard as they can to resolve the issue and are hoping to have it sorted by April.
There is a vaguely serious point lurking somewhere within. There’s no doubt now that Brexit has real-life consequences, that it has made things worse and it will affect everyone, though there remains no clear path for remedying said problems.
If there were easy ways to sort out supply chains, if there were tangible solutions (as opposed to ideological talking points) to specific practical problems like the Dover-Calais crossing and the Irish border, then after five-and-a-half years somebody would have come up with them, but they haven’t. And they are problems that are only going to get worse, because they can’t be solved.
Naturally, Johnson will blame it all on Brussels, but it won’t work forever. Probably not, anyway. There will have to come a time when it’s clear that this is just the way things are now. This is the best we can do. And there will have to be some kind of reckoning, even if there is no clear political pathway to remedying anything.
But that won’t be for a while yet, and there’ll be plenty of cheap and temporary fixes to be found along the way. As Boris Johnson will already have worked out, the threat of a cancelled Christmas is an opportunity for him save it, just as he tried his very best to do last year, when we all know what happened.
This will be an opportunity to do the only thing he is good at, and that, you can be sure, will involve some two-bit last-minute breakthrough and a chance for him to dress up as Father Christmas in the classic Coke ad and drive a twinkling, sleigh bell-covered articulated lorry down some country lane somewhere. But reality can’t be deferred forever. It really can’t.