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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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.