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?

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The Lib Dems' troubled start doesn't bode well for them

Rows over homosexuality and anti-Semitism are obscuring the party's anti-Brexit stance.

Tim Farron has broken his silence on the question of whether or not gay sex is a sin. (He doesn't.)

Frankly, this isn't the start to the general election campaign that the Liberal Democrats would have wanted. Time that they hoped would be spent talking about how their man was the only one standing up to Brexit has instead been devoted to what Farron thinks about homosexuality.

Now another row may be opening up, this time about anti-Semitism in the Liberal Democrats after David Ward, the controversial former MP who among other things once wrote that "the Jews" were "within a few years of liberation from the death camps...inflicting atrocities on Palestinians" has been re-selected as their candidate in Bradford East. That action, for many, makes a mockery of Farron's promise that his party would be a "warm home" for the community.

Politically, my hunch is that people will largely vote for the Liberal Democrats at this election because of who they're not: a Conservative party that has moved to the right on social issues and is gleefully implementing Brexit, a riven Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, etc. But both rows have hobbled Farron's dream that his party would use this election.

More importantly, they've revealed something about the Liberal Democrats and their ability to cope under fire. There's a fierce debate ongoing about whether or not what Farron's beliefs should matter at all. However you come down on that subject, it's been well-known within the Liberal Democrats that there were questions around not only Farron's beliefs but his habit of going missing for votes concerning homosexuality and abortion. It was even an issue, albeit one not covered overmuch by the press, in the 2015 Liberal Democrat leadership election. The leadership really ought to have worked out a line that would hold long ago, just as David Cameron did in opposition over drugs. (Readers with long memories will remember that Cameron had a much more liberal outlook on drugs policy as an MP than he did after he became Conservative leader.)

It's still my expectation that the Liberal Democrats will have a very good set of local elections. At that point, expect the full force of the Conservative machine and their allies in the press to turn its fire on Farron and his party. We've had an early stress test of the Liberal Democrats' strength under fire. It doesn't bode well for what's to come.

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

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