Rishi Sunak swaps Christmas address for surprise phone calls | Rishi Sunak

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Rishi Sunak has chosen to record phone calls with public servants in which he thanks them for their “selflessness” rather than broadcast a Christmas message to the nation.

The prime minister made apparently surprise calls to four workers and the crew of a naval ship to express his gratitude for their “sacrifices” after an “extraordinary year”.

Footage of the messages comes amid widespread public sector walkouts hitting the NHS, the postal service and transport networks.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, used his Christmas message to reflect on the struggle of the Ukrainian people.

Sunak’s first two months in office were initially spent trying to rectify the economic chaos created by his predecessor, Liz Truss, and now he is facing widespread industrial action.

Royal Mail strikes disrupted deliveries of Christmas cards and presents, and strikes on the railways and by Border Force have affected people’s journeys home or away on holiday.

Armed forces personnel are being paid £20 bonuses to stand in for striking workers.

The Royal College of Nursing announced two further strike dates in January on Friday, and ambulance workers in the GMB union plan to strike on 28 December.

Sunak called the crew of the Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Protector, diplomats in Pakistan, Somalia and Ukraine, and a holiday activities and food programme in London in an effort to portray the value he places on public service.

He said in a statement: “Whether you are working in Mogadishu or Milton Keynes this Christmas, I want you to know that I am personally grateful for your sacrifice.

“This year has been an extraordinary year for so many reasons, but most of all, it’s been a year in which the true spirit and resilience of the United Kingdom has been on show, from the support given to our Ukrainian friends, to the work being done to ensure essential aid reaches the most vulnerable overseas.

“And closer to home, those who have checked on friends and neighbours, volunteers, public servants and essential service staff all working over Christmas – I am truly humbled by your dedication, and I know your selflessness this festive season will spread cheer across the country.”

In a more traditional address, Starmer reflected on the hardship being faced by Ukrainians as Russia bombards the country’s power grid.

“I hope this Christmas is a joyous and relaxing time for you, however you are spending it. I’m looking forward to sharing time with my family, away from the day to day of work,” he said.

“But as I do I will be keeping in my heart all those who are working to keep us safe.

“Those looking after the less fortunate, and our friends in Ukraine, facing the horror of Putin’s appalling attacks. Their struggle for freedom inspires us all.”

Christmas is about hope. It’s a reminder that, even when times are tough, things will get better.

Our shared values of compassion and kindness shine brightest at this time of year as we look after one another.

From my family to yours, have a very happy Christmas. pic.twitter.com/g3kV6sPnjL

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) December 24, 2022

Starmer is spending Christmas with his family in London.

Sunak will spend his first Christmas as prime minister in his constituency of Richmond, in North Yorkshire. Downing Street said he wouldbe updated on any urgent issues while taking time off.

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