On the third day of Christmas...

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My true love sent to me: three french hens, which in the song apparently represent the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. I'm not sure there is much of any of them around today, though.

On the faith side, we might be making progress. Dorothy Glenn of South Shields was told by her Housing Association to remove her four-foot Santa and Christmas lights in case it offended non-Christians. However, her non-Christian neighbours said their kids loved the lights, the Council repudiated the demand, and the Housing Association was forced to apologise. Councillor Ahmed Khan, who represents Mrs Glenn's ward, commented: "It's this kind of nonsense that sets race relations back twenty years." Quite.

As for hope, well, I don’t hold out much hope for our economy in 2009. And charity: it's remarkable how many things that should be done through charity are in fact done through coercion as government takes money out of our pockets to do them. And then take the credit, of course.

The trouble is, that when governments intervene, private funding dries up. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution found that in the 1800s, when it started to accept government money. It found that for every £1 it took from the government, it lost £1.40 in private donations. People couldn't see why they should fund something that the government was paying for. Now the RNLI proudly refuses all government money. Bravo!