Can everyone please shut up about the iPhone 5?

Information overload.

So now we know. The Apple iPhone 4S replacement is to be called – wait for it – the iPhone 5. And this year’s must-have gadget will be lighter and thinner than the model it replaces. That was only rolled out to the usual hype and fanfare associated with Apple launches as recently as last October. Oh, and this years model also boasts a larger screen.

With an excitement one can scarcely take seriously, analysts and technology writers explain that the larger screen means that the iPhone 5 can display an extra row of app icons on its home screen. No matter that the screen of the iPhone 5 will be smaller than rival handsets already on the market from Samsung, Motorola, HTC and Nokia. As for colours, well the self-anointed most innovative company in the world has decreed that the iPhone 5 will come in a choice of two colours: black or white. This year’s model again offers Siri. Perhaps this year, this gizmo will work.

One of the few – very few – amusing aspects of anything at all to do with the current iPhone has been watching owners of the model trying to demonstrate how Siri works. Only they usually fail. If you have not experienced an iPhone owner trying to show off Siri to you, you are indeed fortunate.

With a depressing predictability, news of the iPhone launch was the most read article on the BBC website last night. It is not as if it was a quiet news day. On any normal day, one might expect the most read story to be news of the (long overdue) governmental apology related to the tragedy of Hillsborough; or the assassination in Libya; or perhaps the disciplinary action regarding the collapse of HBOS (also in the overdue category).

The BBC treatment of the iPhone launch is however relatively modest compared to the mass hysteria generated by other media outfits. “Follow live coverage here of the iPhone 5 launch” (The Guardian) is fairly typical. Not a misprint. Even The Guardian has got in on the act. Coverage in The Daily Mail is even worse – well what do you expect?

As for the tech writers, well give me strength. All media outlets religiously quite verbatim the Apple CEO’s modest summary that the Apple stores offer “the best buying experience and the best customer experience on the planet.” If for example, you live in Edinburgh, to take one random example, you can trek through to your nearest Apple Store, 50 miles away in Glasgow.

Don’t even think about living in a rural area if you want to experience the great customer experience of visiting an Apple store, unless you really want to make a day of it.Put it this way – they do not have a large network of stores.

The "new" features of the latest handset have been in the public domain for many weeks, if you can stay awake long enough and make the effort to understand the jargon. For example: "a smaller dock connector" – in real money that means your existing iPhone charger is fit for the bin if you upgrade.

These nice guys at the innovative and secretive Apple have at least made sure that their loyal customers can enjoy the great customer experience of shelling out for a new spare charger.

Call me old fashioned but I can continue to get by with my current handset (a Samsung Galaxy III since you ask) and to hang with trying out Apple’s great customer experience.

My current handset was ordered in less than five minutes via the internet. I have not a clue how many rows of apps I can fit onto the home screen of my mobile. I hope that I never have so little to do that I count the rows of apps on my mobile home screen.

I realise that as my handset is already three months old – and does not bear the Apple logo – friends and colleagues will stop by my desk to demonstrate some of the exciting features of their new handset and tell me I ought to have waited for the iPhone 5. At some point, possibly as soon as about the end of next week, I may well have to scream at some unfortunate workmate something along the lines that "it is just a naffin’ mobile". Only - I may not use the word naffin’.

Douglas Blakey works at VRL financial news.

The iPhone 5 was launched last night. Photograph, Getty Images.

Douglas Blakey is the editor of Retail Banker International

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

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