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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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.