Not sure about that Diana statue… a royal symbiosis… and a local election for local people

IMAGINE there was no royal coverage. The papers would be thinner and BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell would have nothing to say.

Witchell never does have anything to say but says it anyway with his frowny face frowning and his ferrety voice ferreting away. And the newspapers rarely have anything to report but bellow it anyway into the echo chamber of nonsense that passes for royal news.

As we live in the age of the statue, arguing about whether they should stay or go, the media today gathers around a new statue.

Your appreciation or otherwise of the statue of Diana, Princess of Wales may depend on various factors, including the strength of your stomach.

Not being an expert in statuary, I thought it horribly naff at a lazy glance, awash with easy sentiment. The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones has seen the statue up close and concurs, referring to a “nauseating, spiritless and characterless hunk of nonsense”.

Ian Rank-Broadley’s statue, unveiled yesterday at Kensington Palace, portrays Princess Diana as a strong woman; possibly as a giantess surrounded by mere mortals. Ah, no, those mere mortals are children. Not hers when young, as there are three and one is wearing a dress.

The statue was commissioned by Princes William and Harry to honour their mother. I am guessing they are pleased. I could guess something else, of course. That’s what the newspapers do all the time, moulding stories from speculation, rumour and what the editor wanted in the morning conference.

Today’s front pages, as viewed on the BBC website, show the different ways a straightforward story can be reported.

The Sun goes for “Princess & The Peace” because William and Harry behaved cordially and managed a smile. The Daily Mirror has the brothers reuniting under the headline: “We miss mum every day…” The princes are quoted as saying that they hope the statue would “be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy”.

Over at the Daily Mail, the headline is: “Together… but still so far apart.” A classic of the genre, a bold statement about something the newspaper doesn’t know. Speculation oils most royal reporting as the royals say little, although the princes’ parents broke that rule in high style.

Splashed over the Mail’s photograph of the brothers is a teaser for Richard Kay’s column inside: “Legacy she’d really want? For her boys to end their divisions.” Oh yeah, has Diana’s ghost been whispering into your ear or something?

There’s a sickly symbiosis between the media and the royals, particularly what we used to call the tabloids. The royals are good for business, especially if there is a rift into which prying fingers can be prised.

Many of the papers would be lost without the royals, so they keep up a strange two-faced waltz, lavishing the loyalty while also shit-stirring on a grand style. It always amazes me that people read or watch this stuff, but they do, as witnessed by endless Diana features and Diana documentaries.

You can’t help thinking she’s much more useful to them young and dead, as it were, rather than as a 60-year-old woman. Although I guess there would still be headlines: “Daring Diana cuts a dash as she peels away the years in low-cut gown for her 60th party”. Or some such flimflam.

Incidentally, The Times goes for a photograph and a report headlined: “Brothers show unity as Diana statue finally goes on show.” No wild and shouty speculation, just a straight news story.

TO PARAPHRASE from The League of Gentlemen, that was a local byelection for local people.

Good to see Kim Leadbeater win Batley and Spen for Labour, even by the slimmest of margins. She’s a local woman who campaigned on local issues, while contending with national nastiness.

George Galloway and his grandstanding ego won 8,000 votes, many possibly from Leadbeater. A shame and it would still be a shame if eight people had voted for that terrible man.

The national  correspondents will now be heading back to London, leaving Leadbeater to learn how to be an MP in the seat once held by her sister, Jo Cox, murdered when serving as the area’s MP.

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