How Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, Liz Truss and more do Christmas

LONDON — Plots, bills and parties give way Monday to family — and ritual.

The little traditions we make for ourselves on Christmas Day pause time and briefly silence the rattle of the outside world.

POLITICO London Playbook sent out the call for Westminster’s weird, wonderful or heartwarming traditions — the thing Christmas isn’t Christmas without. Pour a glass and settle in.

Rishi Sunak, prime minister

“I always brine then cook the turkey — I hate the cooking, but no one else will do it! — and watch The Snowman with my daughters on Christmas Eve followed by The Holiday on Christmas Day.”

Keir Starmer, Labour leader

“My kids get up at stupid o’clock to open presents, and afterwards we go to the memorial stone for Vic’s mum, who died three years ago. Then the pub is open for a couple of hours, so we go in there for a drink.”

John Major, former PM

“Two particular films, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife, are always a must-see for [Norma and I] and — on Christmas Eve — everything stops for the Service of Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. Before the family arrives, I sit down with a large glass of wine and read the magnificent Christmas Carol by Dickens. After all that, I feel truly festive, and the chaos begins…”

Liz Truss, former PM

“Watching ET and The Sound of Music. I always well up when ET is presumed dead in the river.”

David Cameron, foreign secretary

“Stockings in bed, church, presents, turkey, speech, snooze, fight. Like everyone.”

Lindsay Hoyle, Commons speaker

“I set the table for the family on Christmas Eve. Then we relax on Christmas morning by listening to Motown carols and eating bacon and sausage in barm cakes.”

John McFall, Lord speaker

“In my younger days, I’d have a swim in the Clyde on Christmas morning. But now I start the day with a stroll with my family on the banks of beautiful Loch Lomond.”

James Cleverly, home secretary

“Every year our two boys climb on to our bed at stupid o’clock and take their presents out of their stockings. Which was very sweet when they were 6 and 7. It’s less sweet now they’re 19 and 20 and 6ft6 and 6ft5. I have a combined 13ft of son on my bed and just want to sleep.”

Louise Haigh, shadow transport secretary

“It’s my lurcher Milo’s birthday on Christmas Eve so we always have a party for the dog. He gets a cake, a stocking and a hat. Once my mum waited until he’d left the room to tell me his present, so she wouldn’t spoil the surprise.”

Victoria Prentis, attorney general

“I spend every Christmas Eve organising the village nativity with dogs dressed up as sheep, alpacas pretending to be camels, and a pony who is acting the part of the donkey. Hundreds of people come to see the spectacle!”

Lee Anderson, Conservative deputy chair

“Two sleeping tablets, just so I don’t have to listen to the mother-in-law … One Christmas I had full dinner, pudding, a bottle of wine, two sleeping tablets, fell asleep on the settee and woke up the following day. How’s that grab you?”

“I always brine then cook the turkey — I hate the cooking, but no one else will do it! — and watch The Snowman with my daughters on Christmas Eve followed by The Holiday on Christmas Day.” | Toby Melville – Pool / Getty Images

Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester

“All the generations gather in a circle and sing Pogues songs at the top of our voices. It’s always emotional but will be even more so this year with the passing of Shane.”

Craig Williams, PPS to the prime minister

“I have an old Nokia at home, and as soon as I get back for Christmas the smartphone will be on call forwarding so I won’t be looking at WhatsApp and social media during the day.”

Ed Davey, Lib Dem leader

“My birthday’s on Christmas Day, so when I was a kid my mum used to give me a separate day two weeks early to celebrate. Now I get to choose what we eat for Christmas dinner and I wait to open my birthday presents until the kids have had their fill.”

Humza Yousaf, Scottish first minister

“Given the family situation in Gaza, my festive period will be more subdued than usual — but we put out reindeer food, Irn Bru and a Ferrero Rocher for Santa on Christmas Eve, and I make the family a signature turkey tandoori on Christmas Day after we all exchange presents.”

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader

“I’m the only one in my family who refuses to wear a Christmas jumper. I refuse to buy a special jumper for one day of the year.”

Stephen Flynn, SNP Westminster leader

“My first and only Christmas tradition is to dodge turkey. There is a reason it doesn’t feature on menus all year round and that should apply to Christmas too.”

“My kids get up at stupid o’clock to open presents, and afterwards we go to the memorial stone for Vic’s mum, who died three years ago. Then the pub is open for a couple of hours, so we go in there for a drink.”| Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader

“A couple of days before, I take my three kids to ASDA and we throw in as many junk munchies as we can. I then spend the whole week in my jammies eating them and watching movie classics like National Lampoon.”

Mark Drakeford, Welsh first minister

“I always try to get to the allotment to dig up the last of the year’s potato crop to serve on the day.”

Jeremy Corbyn, independent MP

“I visit the town hall where our local homeless shelter, Streets Kitchen, hosts a Christmas dinner for people experiencing homelessness. I like talking to people there, listening to their stories and eating mince pies together.”

Steve Reed, shadow environment secretary

“I spend a week planning and executing the Christmas dinner. I’m obsessed with roast potatoes. As the Telegraph correctly reported, I once took a week off work to perfect the art of the spud.”

Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney general

“I make a Christmas pudding every year from an Irish recipe from my grandmother. It has potatoes in it. There’s also a carrot.”

Lucy Frazer, culture secretary

“My family will be locked in their annual battle for the Frazer Family Cup — complete with engraved winners’ plaque — for whoever triumphs in an It’s a Knockout-style day of games, including Fluffy Bunnies (how many marshmallows can you stuff into your mouth while still being able to say ‘Fluffy Bunnies’) or ‘blow the fish’ racing.”

“I visit the town hall where our local homeless shelter, Streets Kitchen, hosts a Christmas dinner for people experiencing homelessness. I like talking to people there, listening to their stories and eating mince pies together.” | Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP

“The wider Ellwood clan (parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins and pets) all re-unite in a huge, remote, Lake District cottage, to enjoy long walks to summits, cold dips in Lake Windermere and competitive board games by the open fire – especially the Settlers of Catan!”

Andrew Griffith, DSIT minister

“We always play Monopoly on Christmas Day, as you’d expect from a veteran of the City. It’s *very* competitive.”

Sophy Ridge, Sky News interviewer

“‘Country Town Animal’ has been passed down my family for generations and is a furious frenzy with pen and paper, that sparks levels of competitiveness that frankly aren’t in the Christmas spirit at all.”

Peter Cardwell, TalkTV chief political commentator

“I might be 39, but I still leave Father Christmas a note on the hearth in my parents’ home in Richhill, Co Armagh, telling him I’ve been a good boy all year.”

James Tapsfield, MailOnline political editor

“We’ve got seven little elves who do very weird things overnight, like sawing each other in half and cooking each other in the oven. It’s dark. The tableaux have increasingly become a bit Chapman brothers.”

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Shadow Cabinet Office minister

“My children love Elf on the Shelf, so we have the mischievous elves who’ve done something outrageous during the night. They have in the past spilt flour all over the kitchen and pulled the Christmas decorations off the ceiling.”

Liz Savile Roberts, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader

“We go to St Beuno’s church in Pistyll on Christmas Eve for the late carol service. It has no electricity supply but is lit by candles, and has reeds and herbs strewn on the floor.”

Nigel Evans, deputy speaker

“My mum, who passed in 2009, hardly ever drank but the one thing she did go for was port and lemon. So every year when the family gathers, we get up at 11 a.m. and drink that. One year we were in New York and I went into six or seven stores trying to get Schweppes’ lemonade. We had to make do with 7Up.”

Anne Alexander, Good Morning Britain head of politics

“My mum insisted we have proper 70s-style prawn cocktail, with iceberg lettuce. She passed this year so we’ll be having it in her honor.”

Sadiq Khan, London mayor

“Since my days as the local MP I’ve popped down to the world-famous Tooting Lido for their Christmas Day race! I’ve never yet taken the plunge … my compromise is to cheer on from the poolside in a woolly hat with a hot chocolate.”

Susan Hall, Conservative candidate for London mayor

“We play board games with my grandkids. Also, I ALWAYS forget the parsnips, leave them in the oven and they are like charcoal.”

Chris Mason, BBC political editor

“A tradition in my wife’s family for yonks (that I’ve enthusiastically embraced) is a massive chunk of ham boiling away for ages with all sorts of floaters in the pot to help flavour it — then big thick slices of it on toast with mustard. Marvelous.”

Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor

“Every year I do the cooking. There are six of us together on Christmas Day and then ten on Boxing Day. The cranberry sauce is made with a red cherry brandy and then I do Nigella’s gingerbread stuffing. The Christmas cake was made several weeks ago with my neighbour Von, who is the best cook and cake maker I know.”

Carolyn Harris, Labour MP

“I have to save veg back for the next day. It’s better than the main dinner. If there’s no Boxing Day fry-up, we haven’t had a Christmas.”

Lisa Nandy, shadow development secretary

“We always have a massive row before the turkey even appears. My family spans every political tradition from Marxism to Liberalism. My sister reserves the right not to have an opinion, but usually wins the argument because she’s the last person at the table.”

Oliver Dowden, deputy PM

“I always watch the Muppets Christmas Carol on Christmas Day.”

Katy Balls, political editor, The Spectator

“Every Christmas Eve without fail we watch the Elf film dressed in elf jumpers my dad purchased from Tesco many years ago.”

Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP

“We all buy matching pyjamas every year — including for my Cavachon Bella and Cavapoochon Bailey.”

Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP

“We get goofy onesies every year, including for Milo my working cocker spaniel. I’ve been known to be a polar bear.”

Jonathan Reynolds, shadow business and trade secretary

Matching pyjamas for the Reynolds family.”

Caroline Wheeler, Sunday Times political editor

“My six children get individual Father Christmas letters raising all their misdemeanours … but they do each get to choose a pudding. So we usually have seven — tiramisu, vanilla cheesecake, chocolate chip ice cream — most of which end up in the bin.”

Pippa Crerar, Guardian political editor

“No one is allowed any chocolate in the morning because I’m a strict mum. Except me. I have a whole chocolate orange before breakfast.”

Sarah Jones, shadow minister for industry

“My kids and wider family aren’t allowed to open all their presents in one go — they have to spread it out over the whole day until about 6 p.m. I keep telling them it’s more fun…”

Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party chair

“Every Boxing Day I go to watch the football … because I don’t have a choice. My partner is a referee so I end up on a freezing touchline, holding a mince pie and watching people shout at each other.”

Andrew Marr, New Statesman political editor

“We always go to see a Nutcracker — my daughters are really into it. We’ve been going since my eldest was four; she’s now 30.”

POLITICO’s own Annabelle Dickson

“My mum’s side of the family bring through a plate with a bowl on top in anticipation it’s going to be a Christmas pudding. Everyone goes ‘hip hip …’ — but it’s a random object like a slipper or a cuddly toy. Eventually the pudding comes and we can shout ‘hooray.’ The first time my husband came for Christmas he thought we were all insane.”

Alain Tolhurst, PoliticsHome

“My wife’s family have three rules – tuxedos at dinner, dinner at 8 p.m., and no TV all day. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Peter Bottomley, father of the House

“My in-laws’ tradition is for everyone to make a speech about experience in the closing year followed by anticipation of the new year.”

Beth Rigby, Sky News political editor

“I make Christmas piccalilli every year. It’s become a whole thing and I have to give everyone a jar. Whether they like it or not.”

Wes Streeting, shadow health secretary

“I eat as much as possible and get to bed before 10 p.m., because by then I’m slightly sozzled.”

Steve Swinford, Times political editor

“We’re spending our first Christmas at home this year, and I’m planning to inflict on our children the same ritual I grew up with — the annual Christmas day walk, even (or especially) if the weather is absolutely atrocious. I used to hate it as a child but as an adult I have grown to love it.”

Greg Hands, trade minister

“My family has British, German, American and Russian influences — so we celebrate on both the 24th and 25th! The kids used to claim this meant double presents, but as a former chief secretary I am wise to these ploys. We do presents on the 24th, and lunch on the 25th.”

London Playbook’s secret weapon Noah Keate

“We go round my family after a few drinks and each person presents a new-found talent, like poetry or a dance. There are no rules. One year I sang Tiny Tim’s ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ a capella.”

Michael Tomlinson, illegal migration minister

“The family will gather around the piano and sing 4-part harmony carols from ‘the green book’ with a glass of mulled wine in hand.”

Simon Danczuk, former MP

“We spend all day in bed…”