SMF wins at Christmas cards

"Retiring Rudolph"

The winner of this year's Christmas card competition (yes, there was a competition, didn't you know?) is the Social Market Foundation, whose card is a perfect parody of their own reports. Click for a bigger version:

The text on the back says:

The debacle surrounding the refranchising of Santa's West Coast Sleighline has thrown gift distribution policy into a snow flurry this Christmas.

Last month, Rudolph's operation of the line came to an abrupt end, as purple-nosed reindeer Prancer was unexpectedly awarded the contract. But, as Rudolph languished in unseasonably bad-tempered retirement, the Partnership of Lapland Elves and Baubles (P.L.E.B.s) uncovered significant technical flaws in the bidding process, based on risky stocking capacity projections.

In this year's Christmas commission, the SMF research fairies propose a radical overhaul of the tendering process to ensure that such problems don't snowball in future.

"This is virgin' on the ridiculous. Unless we sort this thing out, next year there'll be 12 drummers drumming before we get the gifts out."
- The Ombusnowman

Sponsor: Virgin Mary

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.