FORTUNATELY it was written in pencil. There it is, in the diary for October 31, 2019: “BREXIT”. It has had to be erased, like so many other things now that the Christmas General Election of 2019 is upon us. Christmas is not cancelled, or not yet anyway, but the joyous events in the run up, the nativity plays and the drinks parties, but mostly the drinks parties, will have to be rearranged.

Do not despair, though. With the aid of ten election do’s and don’ts – let us call them commandments in keeping with the season’s biblical theme – we can get through this with our sanity clauses intact (with apologies, and thanks forever, to the Marx Bros). Here goes:

DO: Set up an official, impartial, fact checking service that can give a ruling on the avalanche of claims and counterclaims coming voters’ way. Yesterday’s PMQs, with a row over the involvement of American firms in the NHS, was just a flavour of what is to come. At this moment, somewhere in the UK, claims are being painted on the sides of buses and voters need to know who and what to trust. Let the official fact checker dispense with the traditional “on the one hand/on the other” fuddy-duddy formalities. In this fast-moving age a simple thumbs up, thumbs down will do. No appeals, no refunds, harsh but fair.

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DON’T: Let us tolerate streams of political cliches masquerading as answers to specific questions. Any interview in which a politician says, “Let me be clear”, “We have always been clear”, or any variety thereof, will be terminated immediately and the culprit fined. Likewise, experts, back in fashion since Westminster’s implosion, starting sentences with the word, “So”.

DO: Feel free to be a switcher in this General Election. The current Westminster parliament has been notable for the large number of politicians, some 46 according to the BBC’s PM programme, who have switched sides or found themselves suddenly independent. Voters may like to follow their examples and dispense with old loyalties as they see fit. Outwith Scotland, the Tories entire election strategy depends on leopards changing their spots. In general, and due in part to Brexit creating new allegiances, a lot of soul searching will be going on as pens hover above ballot papers. As a result of switching this could be a fiendishly difficult election to call.

DON’T: Take Scotland for granted. Goes for all parties, but particularly the SNP, widely expected to sweep the board in Scotland. No sooner had an election date been named than some in the party were framing the General Election as mainly a way to advance independence. Not only is this a risky strategy that could repel as many voters as it attracts, there is a whiff of arrogance about it, too. Voters here want to talk about schools, the NHS, the economy and so on as much as voters in the rest of the UK. They have genuine concerns that must be heard. To assume otherwise is to believe wrongly that all is well here, save for a lack of independence. See the history of Labour in Scotland, or the seats lost in the 2017 General Election, for further information on the perils of assuming support is in the bag.

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DO: Be nice to canvassers. Yes, it is a pain in the neck to have your evening interrupted, but it is an essential part of the functioning of democracy. Information is exchanged between parties and voters, sometimes in fairly spirited terms, and pressure released. After the last three years we could all do with some of that. Remember, too, that it is cold outside and it takes some commitment to a cause to go out there “on the knock”. Not for nothing was fleece -lined clothing trending last night.

DON’T: On the subject of social media, it might be a good time to remind BBC journalists, and one in particular, hello Laura, to pause before they tweet, such is the number of Twitter “spats” they have been in lately.

The latest erupted this week when the BBC’s political editor wrongly said the SNP had called a rally in Glasgow this Saturday as part of gearing up for an election. In fact, the event has been organised by The National, The Herald’s sister paper, and has been in the pipeline for months. Ms Kuenssberg, to her credit, issued a correction. Next time, for there surely will be one, remember it is better to be right than quick.

DO: Hope that broadcasters, in the run up to polling day on December 12, find ways of covering politics that prove more enlightening than the current stale models.

Heated debates, with panels of mostly men shouting at each other, or audience members shouting at them, does nothing to aid anyone’s understanding. Broadcasters have the upper hand in what is certain to be a campaign with more key players than usual vying for attention. Use it to insist on extended, one-to-one interviews, or follow the American example and have small panels quizzing debate participants rather than large audiences. Panels are easier to vet, thus avoiding the inevitable rows when seemingly impartial questioners turn out to be not quite as advertised.

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DON’T: Forget there is life after politics. Some of it can even be fun. Remember those pre-Brexit days when politics, though often intense and high stakes, was but a mere part of life and not some all-consuming behemoth gobbling up vast amounts of time and patience? It is possible to return to those days. Though it may seem hard to believe now, foreign newspapers will eventually stop asking why the UK has taken leave of its senses.

DO: Take the time to watch party political broadcasts. They may indeed be analogue communication in a digital age, and look positively ancient compared to whizz-bang social media campaigning, but they are a chance for politicians to show what terrible actors they are, much to the amusement of the rest of us.

DON’T: Believe that we will wake up on Friday the 13th – now there is an omen – with everything settled. We could, as some fear, end up with another evenly divided Commons and be right back to square one. The last Christmas election, in 1923, resulted in a hung parliament and another General Election less than a year later.

Merry Christmas everyone.