Rihanna or the Queen: who does the Daily Mail prefer?

Play the game and find out.

The runaway success of the Daily Mail website – in terms of traffic at least – has intrigued many an onlooker, not least because its approach is dominated by paparazzi photographs of US celebrities, taking it away from the kinds of news and issues the paper has covered for decades.

But has the Mail really changed its coverage that much in search of random web traffic? After all, it is surely no coincidence that its best ever month online was April, coinciding with the royal wedding – and there can surely be few subjects closer to the hearts of conventional Mail readers than the royal family.

Based on that premise, we've devised this game. All you have to do is guess which person in each of the following pairings returns the greatest number of Google search results from the Daily Mail website.

Let's start with a really easy one so you get the hang of it (in each case, the answer immediately follows the pictures). 

So, first up is the Queen versus the pop singer Rihanna:

Queen_Rihanna

That's right, it was an easy one. A search for "The Queen" returns a staggering 181,000 results from the Daily Mail website but that is nothing compared to "Rihanna", who returns 331,000 results.

Hopefully you understand the rules now, so let's try another one. How about Kate Middleton versus the US socialite Kim Kardashian?

Kate_middleton_Kardashian
No contest. "Kim Kardashian" – a permanent fixture on the Mail's website – returns 151,000 results, while "Kate Middleton" returns just 43,400.

Time, then, for the royal family to raise its game. So, taking on Lady Gaga, we have the combined might of the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince William and Kate Middleton. It's four against one. Can the royals win?

Gaga_Royal_family

Of course they can. That royal foursome returns 417,770 search results combined, beating Lady Gaga by a whole 4,000 results. The quirky US pop singer – and the brightest star in the Mail's firmament, it would seem – manages just 413,000 results.

Outside of the royal family, how do we think a showdown between the current Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber plays out on the pages of the Daily Mail's website?

Bieber_Cameron

That's right, not very well for the Prime Minister. A search for "David Cameron" returns 78,000 hits on the Mail's website, while a search for "Justin Bieber" returns 278,000.

But then, the PM isn't even the biggest draw in his own home. A search for "SamCam" returns 98,000 results (though the more traditional "Samantha Cameron" yields just 18,200).

Will Sturgeon runs The Media Blog. This post originally appeared here.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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