Steerpike Steerpike

Rishi and Keir launch festive charm offensives

Photo by Alastair Grant - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

It’s a Christmas tradition as old as the nativity itself: the annual lobby drinks party. Each year, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition host rival shindigs to entertain Westminster’s press pack with their best quips and warmest wine. First, it was Sir Keir Starmer’s turn to roast the lobby, having neatly skewered Andy Burnham at the same event last year. He joked that some of the hacks in the room ‘were lucky enough to be the only people this government has actually managed to fly to Rwanda’ and jibed that he had designed a policy to ‘really hit [journalists] where it hurts – putting VAT on private schools.’

Then last night, it was the turn of the Prime Minister. The great-and-the-good of the parliamentary press gallery crammed into No. 10 for a smorgasbord of canapés and cabinet ministers. Taking to the stage, Rishi Sunak joked that while ‘it has been a pretty hectic run in to Christmas,’ his team had still found time to sing some carols, with suggested song titles including ‘Away in a star chamber’, ‘Oh come Tory faithful’ and ‘I saw some three ships come sailing in… well not on my watch!’ he quipped. ‘And of course’, he added ‘”Silent Night” – that’s what you get when you ask Sir Keir about how he’s going to pay for £28bn of extra borrowing’.

Sunak also let the lobby in on his Christmas plans. ‘I’m looking forward to heading to Yorkshire – although I have told my girls that it might be Santa Claus coming down the chimney or it could be a Greenpeace protestor.’ Other plans include watching Napoleon – ‘a former leader brought out of exile for one last attack on the enemy in red… but that’s enough about the Foreign Secretary’. The diminutive dictator was supposedly poisoned by arsenic in his wallpaper – ‘another would-be world king taken down by home furnishings’, remarked Sunak.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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