Happy Wagga Christmas

It really is that time of year

Ah, Wagga Wagga. Why have I not visited you before?

In fact, Santa pipped me to the proverbial post. I love it that Santa makes it all the way to Wagga Wagga. You'd think it might be an Australian outpost too far, but no, there he is with his reindeer and his sleigh. But look closely at the photo -- is that a Woolworths I see before me? They have Woolworths in Wagga Wagga?! Or maybe that's where all the defunct Woolworths went when they were shut down over here. I can just imagine a great ocean liner, full of rather forlorn-looking shops, all awaiting a new life on sunnier shores. I'm sure they have a nicer time in Wagga Wagga than they would on the average British high street, so we shouldn't feel too bad about it.

Anyway, it all went extremely well with Santa.

While Santa's arrival was the highlight of the night, shoppers had already enjoyed plenty of entertainment with giveaways, face-painting, roving entertainment and the popular bouncing kangaroos.

What was the roving entertainment? That's what I want to know. I do like entertainment that roves, that's on the move, but in a sort of skulking way. It's much the best.

And as for the popular bouncing kangaroos -- it's just too good. Christmas simply isn't Christmas without popular bouncing kangaroos.



Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.