It is now fashionable for the main party leaders to presage the New Year with an individual harbinger of their and the nation’s prospects for the coming twelve months, by way of a ‘New Year Message’. Quite why we need them is not clear: perusing the contents tells us little that we did not know.

Mr. Brown’s billet doux is nearly twice as long as that of Mr. Cameron and is surprisingly gloomy in tone. This may be because he is trying to be clever where the thing he fears most – the economy – is concerned. In sounding a warning note or two about the prospects for the world’s economy and the UK’s place in it, he is perhaps trying to have the best of both worlds.

If things go well for Britain, notwithstanding a global downturn, then he will, you may be sure, claim credit for it and that dead ringer for a badger caught in the headlights, public school-educated Alistair Darling, will be elbowed swiftly out of the limelight; if everything goes pear-shaped, said Badger will be marched smartly to the sound of the guns whilst Macavity opines that, of course, he warned us and Darling of the problems and it was up to the latter to sort it out. If anyone should so bold as to suggest that, given his ten years in the Treasury it is down to him, Macavity will mutter a quick ‘Not me, Guv!’ and with a swish of his tail will be gone.

The rest of the message is, well, turgid and about as exciting as a Soviet Trade Commissars disquisition on tractor production figures. The word global or globalisation appears seven times, the word ‘change’, fast becoming the Psittacine mantra of the Brown era, ten times. Worse, it reads like a speech and so has a rather odd oratorical air to it: worse still it sounds just like his 2007 conference speech which, most will recall, was something of a turkey.

As for Mr. Cameron, his is a much more slender thing, and rather better for that. More combative in tone, it is an indication that he has the stomach for a fight in 2008. Nor does it neglect to express, shortly, a reasonable distillation of Toryism:

My vision for Britain is clear: to give people more opportunity and power over their lives, to make families stronger and society more responsible, and to make Britain safer and greener.

And we will inaugurate a new era in government: government for the post-bureaucratic age, where we devolve power to people and communities because we understand that a government that tries to control everything ends up not being able to run anything.

Proof of the pudding will, as ever, be in the eating.