THERESA MAY has called for the country to put the divisions created by the European Union referendum behind it and unite in 2017 in her Christmas message.
The Prime Minister, a practising Anglican and the daughter of a vicar, pointedly calls for the defence of the Christian faith around the world.
She also describes 2016 as a year when the UK had “much to celebrate” in the shape of Olympic and Paralympic success and the Queen’s 90th birthday.
In a separate video message to Britain’s armed forces, Mrs May promises to do more for them and their families in 2017 to show the Government is on their side.
The Prime Minister describes this year’s celebrations of sporting success as moments when people “come together”.
She continues: “Coming together is also important for us as a country.
“As we leave the European Union we must seize an historic opportunity to forge a bold new role for ourselves in the world and to unite our country as we move forward into the future.
“And, with our international partners, we must work together to promote trade, increase prosperity and face the challenges to peace and security around the world.”
As Downing Street director of communications, Alistair Campbell famously advised “we don’t do God” when an interviewer tried to inquire about then prime minister Tony Blair’s religious beliefs.
But David Cameron’s seasonal messages included Christian references and Mrs May continues that approach today.
She says: “As we gather with our friends and families at this time of year we proudly celebrate the birth of Christ and the message of forgiveness, love and hope that He brings.
“We also think of Christians in other parts of the world who face persecution this Christmas and re-affirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions to practise their beliefs in peace and safety.”
The Prime Minister also references her own childhood as she pays tribute to those working over the holiday period.
“Having grown up in a vicarage, I know how demanding it can be for those who have to work over the Christmas period. So it’s right for all of us to express our gratitude to those who will have to spend Christmas away from the people they love in looking after others: those in our health and care services, those who work with the vulnerable, as well as those who will be caring for a loved one.
“And we thank those in our armed forces, security agencies and emergency services who work all year round to keep our country safe – especially those who will be separated by their duty from their families and friends.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron chose a child refugee centre in Paris as the location for his video Christmas message released yesterday.
“As a Christian, I think Christmas is about a God who gave himself up for us and came to Earth in order to do that and urges us to follow him and to believe we should do to others what we would have them do to us,” he said.
“Imagine the UK was a war-torn and terrible place to live and imagine that Eritrea or Sudan or Syria were peaceful places. Let’s imagine that we fled with our children or sent them on ahead because it was the safest or least risky thing to do.
“What would we want those other countries to do for us?”