Diana is dead - the media need to get over her

Newsweek's latest cover featuring a resurrected Diana is grubby, undignified and demeaning attempt t

It's hard to know where to begin with Newsweek's spectacularly tasteless "Diana at 50" cover, which has the People's Princess artificially aged and somewhat messily photoshopped next to a picture of Kate Middleton. Is it genius? Is it satire? Is it just a right old horlicks?

"If she were here now," is the wistful coverline plugging a feature by Tina Brown. If she were now, what would she think? Presumably, she wouldn't be thinking: "What the fuck have they done, mucking around with an old picture of me like that?" because they wouldn't have to. If she were here now, I like to think Diana would be hiding away in a bunker somewhere from the cavalcade of manky old tat being written about "DIANA AT 50", thinking: "Oh please, make it stop, make it stop. Why can't they pick on someone else for once?"

Newsweek cover

Actually, that's not fair. My hope is that if Diana were still alive, she wouldn't be as hounded nowadays as she was when she was alive. Even for those of us who don't like royalty, privilege and all it stands for, I think there was something human and kindly about her, the way in which she decontaminated subjects like AIDS or used her enormous fame to bring public notice to issues such as landmines; there was something decent and dignified about the Pestered Princess. Something much more dignified and decent than the kind of people still feasting on her legacy all these years later.

Well, you be the judge. The article is here, and there's even a page on what Diana's Facebook would be like (friends with Jo Rowling and Rafa Nadal! Messages on her wall from Sarah Ferguson and Deepak Chopra!) if she hadn't been killed in 1997.

Oh, what would she have made of Twitter and Facebook? What would she have made of blogging, one wonders? Well, we shall never know. She's dead. Why speculate? She's dead. No amount of dancing on her grave will bring her back to life or let us know the things we never found out, those tiny corners of a very public life that somehow remained private. Now it's 50... next it will be 60... and so on, and so on, until the very last essence is wrung dry.

Just as with Vanity Fair's rather unpleasant 'Imagine if John Lennon were still alive' supposed tribute article of last year, this kind of thing is a bit grubby, a bit undignified, a bit demeaning for the author as much as for the poor victim. The photo appears to be of Kate Middleton at the wedding of Sam Waley-Cohen, with the Diana-alike crudely splodged next to her. Subtle, it ain't. But then I suppose that's the whole point: create a bit of a stir, get more attention for what you're doing. It's all part of the show.

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.