Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn praise NHS staff working over Christmas

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have paid tribute to NHS staff and other public servants working through the holidays in their annual Christmas messages.

While the two leaders both praised the efforts of those who were putting their celebrations on hold to look after others, the tone of their messages could hardly be more different.

The Prime Minister, still basking in his general election triumph, began his video with a jaunty: “Hi folks, Boris Johnson here, taking a moment to wish you all a merry little Christmas”.

And he signed off breezily, urging people to enjoy the next few days, adding: “Try not to have too many arguments with the in-laws – or anyone else.”

In contrast, Mr Corbyn, in what will almost certainly be his last Christmas message as Labour leader, reflected ruefully on his catastrophic defeat while expressing his hope for a “better world”.

“This has been a difficult year for many of us.

“We didn’t succeed in delivering the change that so many people so desperately need,” he said.

“But Christmas is a chance to listen, reflect and remember all the things that bind us together: our compassion, our determination to tackle injustice and our hope for a better world.”

Mr Corbyn said it was a time of year the when “the scale of injustice and inequality is in very plain sight” and he praised those working in food banks and emergency shelters, helping the less fortunate.

“While we celebrate being together, we are reminded of the many who will be alone and sadly lonely at Christmas,” he said.

“But our communities are built on generosity and the solidarity that comes from that.

“So we do not walk by on the other side.”

In his message Mr Johnson, who will be spending his first Christmas as Prime Minister in Downing Street with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds, thanked those in the NHS, the police and other public services who would be working over the holiday as well as military personnel on deployment with the armed forces.

He also spoke of the Christians around the world who were facing persecution for their beliefs.

“For them, Christmas Day will be marked in private, in secret, perhaps even in a prison cell,” he said.

Boris Johnson has spoken of Christians facing persecution for their beliefs (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“As Prime Minister, that’s something I want to change.

“We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and will defend your right to practice your faith.

“So as a country let us reflect on the year, and celebrate the good that is to come.”

In his Christmas message, acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey spoke about his Christian faith.

He said: “As a Christian, for me, it’s all about hope. And joy. And love.

“What could possibly represent hope, joy and love better – than a new born baby.

“When I held my first child, in the crook of my arm in Kingston Hospital, just minutes after he’d been born, that was the first time I really understood how my own father and mother must have loved me.

“So you don’t actually have to believe in Jesus to recognise that for Christians, Christmas has a deep, profound meaning.