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
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After Richmond Park, Labour MPs are haunted by a familiar ghost

Labour MPs in big cities fear the Liberal Democrats, while in the north, they fear Ukip. 

The Liberal Democrats’ victory in Richmond Park has Conservatives nervous, and rightly so. Not only did Sarah Olney take the votes of soft Conservatives who backed a Remain vote on 23 June, she also benefited from tactical voting from Labour voters.

Although Richmond Park is the fifth most pro-Remain constituency won by a Conservative at the 2015 election, the more significant number – for the Liberal Democrats at least – is 15: that’s the number of Tory-held seats they could win if they reduced the Labour vote by the same amount they managed in Richmond Park.

The Tories have two Brexit headaches, electorally speaking. The first is the direct loss of voters who backed David Cameron in 2015 and a Remain vote in 2016 to the Liberal Democrats. The second is that Brexit appears to have made Liberal Democrat candidates palatable to Labour voters who backed the party as the anti-Conservative option in seats where Labour is generally weak from 1992 to 2010, but stayed at home or voted Labour in 2015.

Although local council by-elections are not as dramatic as parliamentary ones, they offer clues as to how national elections may play out, and it’s worth noting that Richmond Park wasn’t the only place where the Liberal Democrats saw a dramatic surge in the party’s fortunes. They also made a dramatic gain in Chichester, which voted to leave.

(That’s the other factor to remember in the “Leave/Remain” divide. In Liberal-Conservative battlegrounds where the majority of voters opted to leave, the third-placed Labour and Green vote tends to be heavily pro-Remain.)

But it’s not just Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats in second who have cause to be nervous.  Labour MPs outside of England's big cities have long been nervous that Ukip will do to them what the SNP did to their Scottish colleagues in 2015. That Ukip is now in second place in many seats that Labour once considered safe only adds to the sense of unease.

In a lot of seats, the closeness of Ukip is overstated. As one MP, who has the Conservatives in second place observed, “All that’s happened is you used to have five or six no-hopers, and all of that vote has gone to Ukip, so colleagues are nervous”. That’s true, to an extent. But it’s worth noting that the same thing could be said for the Liberal Democrats in Conservative seats in 1992. All they had done was to coagulate most of the “anyone but the Conservative” vote under their banner. In 1997, they took Conservative votes – and with it, picked up 28 formerly Tory seats.

Also nervous are the party’s London MPs, albeit for different reasons. They fear that Remain voters will desert them for the Liberal Democrats. (It’s worth noting that Catherine West, who sits for the most pro-Remain seat in the country, has already told constituents that she will vote against Article 50, as has David Lammy, another North London MP.)

A particular cause for alarm is that most of the party’s high command – Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, and Keir Starmer – all sit for seats that were heavily pro-Remain. Thornberry, in particular, has the particularly dangerous combination of a seat that voted Remain in June but has flirted with the Liberal Democrats in the past, with the shadow foreign secretary finishing just 484 votes ahead of Bridget Fox, the Liberal Democrat candidate, in 2005.

Are they right to be worried? That the referendum allowed the Liberal Democrats to reconfigure the politics of Richmond Park adds credence to a YouGov poll that showed a pro-Brexit Labour party finishing third behind a pro-second referendum Liberal Democrat party, should Labour go into the next election backing Brexit and the Liberal Democrats opt to oppose it.

The difficulty for Labour is the calculation for the Liberal Democrats is easy. They are an unabashedly pro-European party, from their activists to their MPs, and the 22 per cent of voters who back a referendum re-run are a significantly larger group than the eight per cent of the vote that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats got in 2015.

The calculus is more fraught for Labour. In terms of the straight Conservative battle, their best hope is to put the referendum question to bed and focus on issues which don’t divide their coalition in two, as immigration does. But for separate reasons, neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats will be keen to let them.

At every point, the referendum question poses difficulties for Labour. Even when neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats take seats from them directly, they can hurt them badly, allowing the Conservatives to come through the middle.

The big problem is that the stance that makes sense in terms of maintaining party unity is to try to run on a ticket of moving past the referendum and focussing on the party’s core issues of social justice, better public services and redistribution.

But the trouble with that approach is that it’s alarmingly similar to the one favoured by Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour in 2016, who tried to make the election about public services, not the constitution. They came third, behind a Conservative party that ran on an explicitly pro-Union platform. The possibility of an English sequel should not be ruled out.  

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