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:
“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.
“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.
“Does my bump look big in this?“
Mark: 4/10. Off-topic and predictable use of the “bump” pun, almost certainly recycled.
“Sam Cameron’s back to labour“
Mark: 5/10. Vaguely confusing and potentially grammatically unsound.
“Samantha’s baby blue“
Mark: 6/10. Original but a little half-baked.
“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.
“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
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?