Wham bam! Sam Cam to be mam (she'll need a new pram)

Yesterday was a less-than-impressive day of headline punning.

If you listened carefully yesterday, you might have heard the sound of British sub-editors tapping keyboards with rare vigour. Samantha Cameron was (is) pregnant! But more importantly, here was an opportunity to pun with the kind of reckless abandon last seen when Michael Foot flew to Brussels to head an arms body, way back in the early 1980s.

Here was an alignment of several stars. The going-into-labour/opposition-to-Labour backbone of the thing, yes. But don't forget the bizarre rumours, vocalised by Ed Vaizey at the beginning of this month, that Mrs Cameron might consider voting for Labour in the forthcoming election, having voted for Blair back in 1997.

Don't forget that Sam Cam already has a headline-friendly nickname. Don't forget the way the Blairs were accused of milking the happy news of the birth of their fourth child, Leo, in order to cut through the universal paranoia that defined the final few months of the last millennium ("New Labour's Falklands, all the feel-good factor with none of the death", as Zoe Williams puts it in yesterday's Guardian).

Don't forget the shimmer of wordplay potential orbiting other pregnancy-related sort-of-words: duff, preggers, bump et al.

So, let's see how the nationals did. Let's see what the supposed best subs in the country managed to carve out of this 24-carat opportunity:

Times

"Sam Cam moves towards labour" and "Nappies at No 10"

Mark: 7/10. Nice use of the key ingredients and a little alliteration to finish.

Guardian

"Samantha Cameron's labour bombshell" and "Tories welcome bump in road to election"

Mark: 8/10. Strong opening and a complex take on the "bump" pun.

Telegraph

"Does my bump look big in this?"

Mark: 4/10. Off-topic and predictable use of the "bump" pun, almost certainly recycled.

Mirror

"Sam Cameron's back to labour"

Mark: 5/10. Vaguely confusing and potentially grammatically unsound.

Independent

"Samantha's baby blue"

Mark: 6/10. Original but a little half-baked.

Sun

"Wham bam! Sam Cam to be mam (she'll need a new pram)"

Mark: 8/10. Thrilling use of a single-sound gag again and again and again.

Daily Mail

"Sam's having a baby Cam" and "David Cameron thrilled as Samantha announces she's pregnant with fourth child and due to give birth in
September
"

Mark: 3/10. A poor man's Sun headline, followed by a catastrophic death of ideas. Fail.

Frankly, I feel a little short-changed. If, as Shakespeare's Feste asserts, "a sentence is but a cheveril glove to a good wit: how quickly the wrong side may be turned outward", then where are the good wits on our once-hilarious newspaper front pages?

Twenty-four hours on, the scale of the missed opportunity is even more apparent.

Readers of The Staggers, can you do better than eight out of ten?

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

 

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“It was like a religious ceremony”: What happened at Big Ben’s final bong?

Both inside and outside Parliament, people gathered to hear the clock’s final midday chime before undergoing repairs.

“It’s just hacks everywhere,” a photographer sighs, jamming his lens through a gap in Parliament’s railings to try and get a closer look.

New Palace Yard, Parliament’s courtyard directly below Big Ben, is filling with amused-looking journalists, waiting for the MPs who have promised to hold a “silent vigil”, heads bowed, to mark Big Ben’s final chime before four years of silence while the tower’s repaired.

About four of them turn up. Two by accident.

It’s five minutes to twelve. Tourists are gathering outside Westminster Tube, as tourists do best. A bigger crowd fills Parliament Square. More people than expected congregate outside, even if it’s the opposite within the Palace. The world and his phone are gazing up at the sad, resigned clock face.


“It’s quite controversial, isn’t it?” one elderly woman in an anorak asks her friend. They shrug and walk off. “Do you know what is this?” an Italian tourist politely asks the tiny press pack, gesturing to the courtyard. No one replies. It’s a good question.

“This is the last time,” says another tourist, elated, Instagram-poised.

“DING DONG DING DONG,” the old bell begins.

Heads down, phones up.


It finishes the on-the-hour tune for the last time, and then gives its much-anticipated resignation statement:

“BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG.”

Applause, cheers, and even some tears.


But while the silly-seasoned journalists snigger, the crowd is enthusiastic.

“It’s quite emotional,” says David Lear, a 52-year-old carer from Essex, who came up to London today with his work and waited 45 minutes beneath Big Ben to hear it chime.

He feels “very, very sad” that the bell is falling silent, and finds the MPs’ vigil respectful. “I think lots of people feel quite strongly about it. I don’t know why they’re doing it. During the war it carries on, and then they turn it off for a health and safety reason.”

“I don’t know why they can’t have some speakers half way down it and just play the chime,” he adds. “So many tourists come especially to listen to the chime, they gather round here, getting ready for it to go – and they’re going to switch it off. It’s crazy.”

Indeed, most of the surrounding crowd appears to be made up of tourists. “I think that it was gorgeous, because I’ve never heard him,” smiles Cora, an 18-year-old German tourist. “It was a great experience.”

An Australian couple in their sixties called Jane and Gary are visiting London for a week. “It was like a religious ceremony, everybody went quiet,” laughs Gary. “I hope they don’t forget where they put the keys to start it again in four years’ time.”

“When we first got here, the first thing we did was come to see it,” adds Jane, who is also positive about the MPs who turned up to watch. “I think it’s good they showed a bit of respect. Because they don’t usually show much respect, do they?”

And, as MPs mouthing off about Big Ben are challenged on their contrasting reactions to Grenfell, that is precisely the problem with an otherwise innocent show of sentimentality.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.