Coca-cola sucks Christmas into its terrifying maw

The ADgenda: This week's most alarming advert.

It must get a bit dull being the world's leading brand. No need for inventive or expensive advertising campaigns when the product you're touting is quaffed by the bucketload by a significant proportion of the world's population. Consequently, Coke has plumped for world domination, focusing their advertising efforts on strong-arming the few remaining stragglers who haven't embraced their sugary world view.

So it is that everyone's hotly anticipated festive moment - the Coke ad - has taken a decidedly creepy turn. A determined Father Christmas stomps through the snow, slapping a note on a mysterious giant present that reads "For those who don't believe". We cut to a drab cityscape, with a lone girl chugging on a Coke bottle only to be interrupted by a thump outside the window - run to look outside and there's a massive present nestling in the snow. The ribbons fall off and inside sits a giant puppet Father Christmas, who pulls off his restraints and rears up to his full terrifying height.

Serving as a reminder of Coke's pervasive presence the world over Father Cokemas stalks the streets winking knowingly at all the non-believers. He's got your number.

Things were already taking a sinister turn when Christmas was heralded by a fleet of honking lorries breaking the idyllic quiet of a snow-scene while a creepy choir chanted "Holidays are coming". But such was the potency of the sugary stuff that this did nothing to dissuade the global population with Coke sales maintaining their constant high and head office fielding calls from disgruntled customers clamouring for the return of the seasonal ad when it briefly left our screens for a couple of years - for them, Christmas wasn't Christmas without the brown stuff.  In the 21st century Coke IS christmas, HGVs and all. Are you one of the non-believers? Father Cokemas is coming to get you…

WTF? Photograph: Getty Images
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Will Euroscepticism prove an unbeatable advantage in the Conservative leadership race?

Conservative members who are eager for Brexit are still searching for a heavyweight champion - and they could yet inherit the earth.

Put your money on Liam Fox? The former Defence Secretary has been given a boost by the news that ConservativeHome’s rolling survey of party members preferences for the next Conservative leader. Jeremy Wilson at BusinessInsider and James Millar at the Sunday Post have both tipped Fox for the top job.

Are they right? The expectation among Conservative MPs is that there will be several candidates from the Tory right: Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and potentially Owen Paterson could all be candidates, while Boris Johnson, in the words of one: “rides both horses – is he the candidate of the left, of the right, or both?”

MPs will whittle down the field of candidates to a top two, who will then be voted on by the membership.  (As Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, notes in his interview with my colleague George Eaton, Conservative MPs could choose to offer a wider field if they so desired, but would be unlikely to surrender more power to party activists.)

The extreme likelihood is that that contest will be between two candidates: George Osborne and not-George Osborne.  “We know that the Chancellor has a bye to the final,” one minister observes, “But once you’re in the final – well, then it’s anyone’s game.”

Could “not-George Osborne” be Liam Fox? Well, the difficulty, as one MP observes, is we don’t really know what the Conservative leadership election is about:

“We don’t even know what the questions are to which the candidates will attempt to present themselves as the answer. Usually, that question would be: who can win us the election? But now that Labour have Corbyn, that question is taken care of.”

So what’s the question that MPs will be asking? We simply don’t know – and it may be that they come to a very different conclusion to their members, just as in 2001, when Ken Clarke won among MPs – before being defeated in a landslide by Conservative activists.

Much depends not only on the outcome of the European referendum, but also on its conduct. If the contest is particularly bruising, it may be that MPs are looking for a candidate who will “heal and settle”, in the words of one. That would disadvantage Fox, who will likely be a combative presence in the European referendum, and could benefit Boris Johnson, who, as one MP put it, “rides both horses” and will be less intimately linked with the referendum and its outcome than Osborne.

But equally, it could be that Euroscepticism proves to be a less powerful card than we currently expect. Ignoring the not inconsiderable organisational hurdles that have to be cleared to beat Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and potentially any or all of the “next generation” of Sajid Javid, Nicky Morgan or Stephen Crabb, we simply don’t know what the reaction of Conservative members to the In-Out referendum will be.

Firstly, there’s a non-trivial possibility that Leave could still win, despite its difficulties at centre-forward. The incentive to “reward” an Outer will be smaller. But if Britain votes to Remain – and if that vote is seen by Conservative members as the result of “dirty tricks” by the Conservative leadership – it could be that many members, far from sticking around for another three to four years to vote in the election, simply decide to leave. The last time that Cameron went against the dearest instincts of many of his party grassroots, the result was victory for the Prime Minister – and an activist base that, as the result of defections to Ukip and cancelled membership fees, is more socially liberal and more sympathetic to Cameron than it was before. Don’t forget that, for all the worry about “entryism” in the Labour leadership, it was “exitism” – of Labour members who supported David Miliband and liked the New Labour years  - that shifted that party towards Jeremy Corbyn.

It could be that if – as Brady predicts in this week’s New Statesman – the final two is an Inner and an Outer, the Eurosceptic candidate finds that the members who might have backed them are simply no longer around.

It comes back to the biggest known unknown in the race to succeed Cameron: Conservative members. For the first time in British political history, a Prime Minister will be chosen, not by MPs with an electoral mandate of their own or by voters at a general election but by an entirelyself-selecting group: party members. And we simply don't know enough about what they feel - yet. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.