Royal wedding hysteria exists because we want it to

People don’t publish “Wills and Kate” stories for the joy of the prose, they do it to flog a few mor

"Do you want the royal wedding special edition of that?"

I was a bit stymied by the question. And surprised. Surprised, because I was only buying a mobile phone (a £3 mobile phone, the cheapest I could find, if you must know); stymied, because I didn't know whether I really wanted to expose myself to the full horror of Kate & Wills Royal Wedding Souvenir Edition or not.

On reflection, I should have bitten the bullet. Curiosity subsequently got the better of me and I can now see what I turned down, having located the joyous item in question online.Here's the thing in its full Union-Jack-look-at-the-lovely-couple glory. A thing of rare beauty, I'm sure you'll agree, and a fitting way to celebrate the wedding of Kate and William: a pay-as-you-go mobile phone.

As one wag said to me when I mentioned its existence on Twitter: "I wonder if it comes pre-hacked?"

Six more weeks. Six more weeks. It's going to stretch out into a vast desert of eternity, the time between now and then. Until that time, we've got to endure the deluge of tacky souvenir novelties, the endless "Aw, isn't it a fairy tale?" maiden aunt talk from royal correspondents, and a seemingly endless slew of articles like the Mirror's the other day, in which we learned that "Kate Middleton and Prince William's wave reveals their closeness".

I don't want to sound like a cold fish. I'm pleased this nice young couple are getting married and we're all going to get a bank holiday out of it; I don't want to take away any of the adrenalin that's already building in all of us as we anticipate the prospect of sitting around a wallpaper pasting table with a warm paper cup of cherryade and a cold sausage roll come 29 April. No. You can be sure I'll be there with a jolly hat and a smile.

There's something else that's been bothering me about this whole business, though, a nagging sense of something sinister. And I didn't really know what it was until I got an email pointing me in the direction of this rather breathtaking article, over at the Mail Online, wondering what Diana's life would have been like if she had faked her own death (I'm afraid you're going to have to hold your noses and plunge headfirst into the midden, my friends). As soon as I began to read it, it became obvious. Those long-lens paparazzi pictures . . . the close-ups of the car . . . the speculation and the intrusion . . .

Whether we like it or not – and the production of these stories is presumably based on a perceived appetite for them among us – Princess Kate is going to supplant Princess Diana. She is going to fill the tabloid void left behind by the Queen of Hearts. Just yesterday, the papers were licking their lips over the fact that a dress she once wore – once, for about five minutes – was flogged off for £78,000. It was "the dress that wowed Wills", drooled the Daily Mail. Just as Diana's dresses were fetishised by the papers, so are Kate's clothes already being turned into iconic bits of thread by the usual suspects.

But then that, I suppose, is what was always going to happen. People don't create royal wedding souvenir-edition pay-as-you-go phones for a laugh, they do it because they might sell a few. People don't publish cloying glurge about how Kate's smile lights up the world for the joy of the prose, they do it because they think it'll flog a few more papers. And the thing is, they're probably right.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.