They say being a politician is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but personally I’d argue that hosting the perfect family Christmas is much more difficult. In order to cope without losing your sanity, the following political skills are vital:
This is not just about making sure everybody receives an equal number of roast potatoes at dinner. Gift giving is a complex process of working out how much you can afford to spend and then trying to find the perfect gift for less. At the same time though you have to make sure that whatever you give is of roughly equal value to what you expect to receive in return. Spend too little and you look mean, spend too much and you could potentially embarrass the other person. One thing all parents should remember is to have a good supply of batteries handy, otherwise the expensive new electronic toy you’re bought for your offspring will be useless until the day after Boxing Day when you can find a shop that sells them.
If Christmas is about anything it’s about not offending people. Therefore you need to make sure that members of your family who don’t like each other are seated at opposite ends of the dining table. Equally, it’s important to be able to listen with good grace to the advice of the 101 people who will try to tell you where you’re going wrong while you’re cooking the dinner (but won’t actually offer to help you prepare it).
The power of persuasion
A vital quality, especially when you’re woken up at 6am by over-excited children demanding to open their presents. The eloquence needed to convince them to go back to bed for a few hours’ much needed sleep might strain even Obama. It’s often just as difficult to persuade the same children to stop playing their video games so that an elderly relative can watch the Queen’s speech.
The ability to say, “Yes Grandmother, of course I like this sweater”, when she hands you something horrible, green and orange that is clearly four sizes too big and made out of the itchiest wool known to mankind.
This is being able to wear the said sweater outside on the customary post Christmas lunch walk, despite the mockery of other members of your family.
Dr Matthew Ashton, lecturer in politics in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences