Leaked Memo from the Department of Happiness

ALL STAFF – NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION

Colleagues,

As you are doubtless aware, the department has been working for some time on a plan to reduce the role of the public sector in providing gifts for children on Christmas morning. State intervention in this area is an archaic practice and we hope that by opening it up to competition, the government can realise significant cost and efficiency gains. Traditionally, this role has been fulfilled by a single, monopolistic Scandinavian contractor with little scrutiny or oversight. It is time to end this Stalinist nonsense and advance toward our stated goal of a “John Lewis Advert For Everyone”.

Despite the obvious advantages, we anticipate that this project will encounter resistance from bleeding hearts and the gutter press. This memo is intended to outlay their likely criticisms and allow you to retaliate with swift and comprehensive rebuttals.

Eligibility Assessment

At the moment, eligibility for the scheme is determined by the naughty / nice criteria established in the early 1900s and decided by a centralised unit. Our plan will see private contractors brought in to distribute this workload. Opponents have pointed out that there is a danger that these private companies will be linked to the ultimate delivery providers and as such may be incentivised to find children “naughty” on spurious grounds in order to drive down costs. There is some precedent in this area vis-a-vis disability claimants. Point out to them that we have taken every necessary measure to ensure the assessments will be fair. If they point out that the same companies that provided the disability assessments are involved and that the criteria were drawn up by the same people, repeat that every necessary measure has been taken and that this time we had Philip Schofield on the advisory committee.

Delivery

Under the current regime, delivery on the big day is undertaken by a single provider. Granted, it has been a successful system thus far, but how long can this continue? Our proposal will see contracts awarded for regional gift hubs with delivery “to the doorstep” undertaken by any willing provider on a franchise basis. Critics will say that while large urban areas will be well served by this, private companies may be unwilling to service less economically viable areas such as the Scottish Highlands, Wales, the South-West, East Anglia and the North. We are confident the contracts we have drawn up are robust and do not anticipate a “postcode lottery” on Christmas morning.

Dividing up provision in this manner between large regional hubs, smaller distribution centres and “to the doorstep” final stage deliveries, all run by different companies, is a standard way of doing business in many sectors. We do not anticipate this causing any communication problems or issues with misaligned incentives.

Risk

Clearly, this is a business process with a very hard deadline. In the event that a private company fails to fulfil its contractual obligations on the day, there are contingency plans in place for the government to step in ( possibly librarians or the army ). It is unavoidable that these emergency measures, should they be needed, would result in a delay in delivery of around 6 – 8 weeks, which a cross-party working group has signed off as acceptable. It will doubtless be pointed out that, again, the government is simply transferring the cream to the private sector while continuing to assume the risk should anything go wrong. This is correct, but if we’re going to privatise essential services – and we are – then there really is no other way.

Gift Provision

Normally children would have an unlimited “menu” of gifts to choose from, subject to rational budget constraints. While this has worked OK in the past we don’t see it as viable going forward. We are therefore introducing a scheme where retailers will sponsor an area and become sole providers of gifts in that franchise. This is probably the most controversial area of the reform. It will mean regional differences in gift provision depending on whether your franchisee has formed a partnership with, say, Argos or Robert Dyas.

Point out the enormous efficiency gains this new system will provide and that the sponsoring companies will be obliged to involve themselves in community schemes. They will form regional “Centres of Yuletide Excellence” and act as a hub for cheer within their defined boundary. Smaller businesses will be invited to become “Advent Beacons”, creating ad-hoc internal markets in Christmas spirit. Be sure to highlight the success of pilot schemes in Gravesend and Solihull.

We will maintain the current system of allowing hand-written letters to be sent up chimneys for the time being, but anticipate moving towards a web-based system in the medium-term. This may be considered less “romantic”, but the efficiency gains are obvious and direct.gov.uk already has much of the infrastructure in place.

Other Potential Criticisms

We expect right-leaning tabloids to complain that much of the work undertaken will be done by foreign-owned companies. Explain that many jobs will be created for hard working British lawyers to work on the various contracts being signed, and that it was all done by a Scandinavian before anyway.

The Guardian will likely complain about how the plans do not account for Muslims etc. Usual line on this, we love Muslims blah blah blah.

There may be some issues regarding the length of the contracts we will be signing – up to 25 years in some cases. Point out that the companies won’t do it otherwise and as we explained earlier, we have to privatise these things.

Thank you all for your hard work on this, and here’s to a competitive Christmas!

Geoff Hawton
Chief Secretary
Department of Happiness

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Exclusive – Excerpt from new Dan Brown novel

Renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon sat in a blue room on a brown chair. His black mobile telephone rang. He answered the phone and said “Hello”. “Hello renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon”, said a man. “There is a mystery with a code. Can you come?”, said the man, in a questioning voice. “Yes”, said renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon.

Renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon got on a white plane and flew to Italy in Europe. He met the man who had spoken to him on the phone earlier. “Hello. I am renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. You called me about a code?”, he said to the man who had called him about the code. “Hello”, said the man who had called renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. “Here is the code”. The man gave him the code.

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