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
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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.