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From Princess of Wales to Queen of Tat - the peculiar commercialisation of Diana

The psychics' princess. 

This Thursday will mark 20 years since the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales - as you may already know if you’ve glanced at one of several hundred Diana-related stories that have appeared in the press over the last two weeks alone.

The Princess died in a car crash after trying to elude paparazzi. In supposed memoriam, every aspect of her life and death has been freshly raked over by the world’s media. Absolutely anyone with any connection to Di has been rolled out: her chef, her astrologer, even her handbag designer. We’ve even heard from the Princess herself, thanks to various psychics who’ve continued to have the occasional post-mortem word with Di about her son’s romantic choices, Brexit and the possibility of a revolt against the crown

Derbyshire’s Psychic Rita even says she could have saved Diana - if only the Princess had checked her voicemail.

And then there's fiction. Diane Clehane’s Imagining Diana, published this week, documents what could have happened had she survived the crash (spoiler alert: she eats lunch, flirts, and gives out awards). This isn’t even the first such novel - Monica Ali’s Untold Story did the same thing in 2011: neither sound as exciting as a suggestion on the Alternate History internet forums of a world where both Diana and Kurt Cobain survive, get together, have five kids, and then are sadly killed while visiting the World Trade Center on 9/11. 

Can’t read? Don’t worry, there TV Diana tributes a-plenty for you too: as well as umpteen documentaries, next week there’s “Diana & I”, a BBC drama about how we, the little people, coped with her death. Stay tuned for next year’s “Feud: Charles and Diana”, a definitely tasteful take on the last year of her life from the creator of Glee and American Horror Story.

Obviously there’s 20th anniversary merchandise. Why not buy a collectible coin, the Diana comic book, or an extremely becoming t-shirt? Perhaps the greatest tribute possible took place on eBay last week, where someone sold a RARE Princess Diana doll. A strictly limited edition porcelain number by masters of tat Franklin Mint. The Princess is depicted smiling gracefully despite some mishap in the intervening years having resulted in the loss of her right arm, and most of her clothes. Sold for 25 dollars plus postage. It is definitely what she would have wanted.

On the big day itself, throwback mourners can use the latest technology to immerse themselves in the event. Stay tuned to the “Diana Day by Day Twitter” account to relive every horrible moment! Stick on a YouTube video of the fateful morning’s news coverage for maximum morbidity! Stand nude in the middle of your huge collection of Diana memorabilia, put "Candle In The Wind 1997" on repeat and start bellowing along: “GOODBYE ENGLAND’S ROSE!”

It should go without saying that what happened on 31 August 1997 was a horrible event - and given the scale of the original reaction, the level of interest 20 years on isn’t exactly surprising. Who gets to decide what the correct intensity of coverage of celebrity death anniversaries is anyway? 

Still, as someone who also lost a parent very suddenly in the summer of 1997, I do occasionally catch myself feeling a bit of sympathy for William and Harry. Even two decades on, it’s a shitty enough thing to have to deal with without the entire world nosing at it for no particularly good reason. Then I go back to supporting the anti-monarchy revolution Diana’s ghost is apparently so worried about.

Perhaps the solution is simply to expand the coverage, to include the people as well as the Princess. Upon the 20th anniversary of my own death, I want as many questionable press stories, commemorative coins and alternate history novels about my life as possible. The more tawdry, tacky crap in memory of me, the better. If there isn’t a nude, armless porcelain doll of me on eBay, every psychic in the land is going to hear about it.

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Why Jeremy Corbyn’s evolution on Brexit matters for the Scottish Labour party

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, an ideological ally of Corbyn, backs staying in the customs union. 

Evolution. A long, slow, almost imperceptible process driven by brutal competition in a desperate attempt to adapt to survive. An accurate description then by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, of Labour’s shifting, chimera of a Brexit policy. After an away day that didn’t decamp very far at all, there seems to have been a mutation in Labour’s policy on customs union. Even McDonnell, a long-term Eurosceptic, indicated that Labour may support Tory amendments when the report stages of the customs and trade bills are finally timetabled by the government (currently delayed) to remain in either “The” or “A” customs union.

This is a victory of sorts for Europhiles in the Shadow Cabinet like Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer. But it is particularly a victory for Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. A strong ally of Jeremy Corbyn who comes from the same Bennite tradition, Leonard broke cover last month to call for exactly such a change to policy on customs union.

Scotland has a swathe of marginal Labour-SNP seats. Its voters opted voted by a majority in every constituency to Remain. While the Scottish National Party has a tendency to trumpet this as evidence of exceptionalism – Scotland as a kind-of Rivendell to England’s xenophobic Mordor – it’s clear that a more Eurocentric, liberal hegemony dominates Scottish politics. Scotland’s population is also declining and it has greater need of inward labour through migration than England. It is for these reasons that the SNP has mounted a fierce assault on Labour’s ephemeral EU position.

At first glance, the need for Labour to shift its Brexit position is not as obvious as Remainers might have it. As the Liberal Democrat experience in last year’s general election demonstrates, if you want to choose opposing Brexit as your hill to die on… then die you well may. This was to some extent replicated in the recent Scottish Labour Leadership race. Anas Sarwar, the centrist challenger, lost after making Brexit an explicit dividing line between himself and the eventual winner, Leonard. The hope that a juggernaut of Remainer fury might coalesce as nationalist resentment did in 2015 turned out to be a dud. This is likely because for many Remainers, Europe is not as high on their list of concerns as other matters like the NHS crisis. They may, however, care about it however when the question is forced upon them.

And it very well might be forced. One day later this year, the shape of a deal on phase two of the negotiations will emerge and Parliament will have to vote, once and for all, to accept or reject a deal. This is both a test and an incredible political opportunity. Leonard, a Scottish Labour old-timer, believes a deal will be rejected and lead to a general election.

If Labour is to win such an election resulting from a parliamentary rejection of the Brexit deal, it will need many of those marginal seats in Scotland. The SNP is preparing by trying to box Labour in. Last month its Westminster representatives laid a trap. They invited Corbyn to take part in anti-Brexit talks of opposition parties he had no choice but to reject. In Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon has been ripping into the same flank that Sarwar opened against Richard Leonard in the leadership contest, branding Labour’s Brexit position “feeble”. At the same time the Scottish government revealed a devastating impact assessment to accompany the negative forecasts leaked from the UK government. If Labour is leading a case against a “bad deal”,  it cannot afford to be seen to be SNP-lite.

The issue will likely come to a head at the Scottish Labour Conference early next month, since local constituency parties have already sent a number of pro-EU and single market motions to be debated there. They could be seen as a possible challenge to the leadership’s opposition to the single market or a second referendum. That is, If these motions make it to debate, unlike at national Labour Conference in 2017, where there seemed to be an organised attempt to prevent division.

When Leonard became leader, he stressed co-operation with the Westminster leadership. Still, unlike the dark “Branch Office” days of the recent past, Scottish Labour seems to be wielding some influence in the wider party again. And Scottish Labour figures will find allies down south. In January, Thornberry used a Fabian Society speech in Edinburgh, that Enlightenment city, to call for a dose of Scottish internationalism in foreign policy. With a twinkle in her eye, she fielded question after question about Brexit. “Ah…Brexit,” she joked. “I knew we’d get there eventually”. Such was Thornberry’s enthusiasm that she made the revealing aside that: “If I was not in the Leadership, then I’d probably be campaigning to remain in the European Union.”