In the bleak midwinter, frosty Ffion made moan

Christmas comes but once a year, which means, fortunately, so do carols with the Howards.

If Labour wants to go into battle over where we all went to school, I am only too ready to roll up my sleeves and indulge in some fisticuffs. As Call Me Dave's one-time favourite band used to sing: "What chance have you got against a [white] tie and a crest?"

The only thing that gives me pause is that when those who pompously call themselves “the commentariat" agree on something, the astute politician bets the other way. It is supposed common wisdom that attacking our leader for being an Old Etonian damages not us, but Labour. The evidence for this is the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. However, many things that don't work especially well in Crewe - trains, for instance - work better than adequately in the rest of the country. It could still be a potent weapon. So it is that I have advised Dave not to be drawn on the issue. Yet. Let Labour play the Eton card for month after month, and then, at the final PMQs before the election, let them play it one more time before pausing and saying: "Please do stop banging on about Eton, otherwise people might think you've got an inferiority complex." Game, set and slanging match.

Christmas comes but once a year, which means, fortunately, so do carols with the Howards. A supposed highlight is Ffion Hague belting out what she describes as a "trad jazz Welsh" version of "In the Bleak Midwinter", which, on a good day, sounds like an off-key Shirley Bassey being strangled by Louis Walsh. This year, her uxorious husband once again led the applause - but let himself down rather by pointing at the Christmas tree at regular intervals and saying, "Shouldn't George be on the top?" Funny once, perhaps, but the joke suffers badly from endless repetition and might be said to push the boundaries of both taste and companionship.

An accusation that could also be levelled at our hostess, saucy Sandra, who buttonholed anyone even slightly slow off the mark to ask if it was really true that the green poster-boy Zac Goldsmith was single. She really is a poor man's Jilly Cooper - the poor man, in this case, being Michael Howard.

All in all, then, an atrocious evening, redeemed partially by a relaxed Ken Clarke not only mistakenly sitting on Michael Gove as he perched on the sofa, but adding insult to injury by promptly falling asleep. The shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families took some rescuing, Ican tell you.

This article first appeared in the 14 December 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The Muslim Jesus