The ten things most likely to be on The Daily Express front page
What is the Daily Express actually for?
It is a question that has plagued me for some time.
I mean, there are some papers whose purpose is clear.
The Guardian is there as a recruiting tool for the BBC. The Daily Mail is there to channel the seething disapproval of the English middle classes. And The Sunday Sport is there so short people and poor people can get their grubby paws on lots of pictures of ladies boobies without having to try and make a purchase from the top shelf in a newsagents.
But The Express?
In a bid to try and find out what it is that The Express actually does, I've studied the front pages from the last three months, and analysed the stories that appeared on them. Not just the main front page headline itself, but also the other stories and features that go to make up the newspaper's shop window as well.
In all I've looked at just over 150 stories which have been published on the front page of The Daily Express during the first three months of 2007, and I think I've come up with the definitive list of the ten most important things that have happened so far this year. Well, according to The Daily Express, anyway.
So, without further ado, let us get the countdown underway
10: Royal Family WAGS - not including Diana
The Royal family proper seldom trouble the Daily Express front page - in fact during the three months of stories I looked at the Queen got one mention and Prince Charles one mention. Dame Helen pretending to be the Queen featured on more front pages than Her Maj herself.
Royal Family wives and girlfriends though are another matter.
There has been a dual morbid fascination with the inner workings of Camilla's anatomy, and a seemingly equal fascination with what Kate Middleton - "our future queen" according to the Express - is wearing on the outside of her body.
This puts the Royal Family WAGS (excluding Diana) as the tenth most likely thing to appear on an Express front page.
And my favourite? The front page that juxtaposed an offer of a free £5 bet on the nags with the headline "Tweedy Kate is favourite".
As one wag - the witty kind, not the female kind - put it over at Daily Mail (and Express) Watch - "If Kate's favourite, can I put my free £5 bet on her?". Miaow.
9: The NHS
Ah, the NHS, bedrock of Britain's social welfare system, and completely rubbish according to the Daily Express. If you can even find a bed, you'll probably get some form of MRSA, so why bother?
Of course, that is if there are any staff left after they all lose their jobs.
And frankly they are so poorly paid, you can't blame 'em for leaving.
Stories about the NHS featured 8 times on the front page so far this year - all negative. If only someone could discover a load of ordinary foodstuffs lying around the house that could help you live for ever....
8: Celebrity Big Brother and Shilpa Shetty
First they told us how bad it was, then they told us how racist it was, and then they seemed to use it as any excuse to put pictures of Shilpa Shetty, preferably showing off her mid-riff, onto the front page.
The highlight of the coverage was their anguished cry:
Big Brother disgrace - How a reality TV show has shamed our country in the eyes of the world
This is, of course, from the paper that during the same three month period bought us such enlightened front page stories as "Now Britain pays £2.5bn benefits to foreigners", "Muslims tell us how to run our schools", "Let illegal migrants roam our streets - Has Britain gone mad?" and "You couldn't make it up...British road signs in Polish. No, we're not joking"
And, lest we forget, the Labour party donating owner of the Daily Express used to publish that well known monthly tribute to both racial and sexual equality - "Asian Babes"
Nothing arouses the curtain-twitching nosy neighbour instinct in us more than a glimpse behind the scenes of somebody else's marital strife.
Unless it is a glimpse of someone else's marital strife when there is lots and lots of money involved, which is the only reason I can see why the Abramovitch divorce and the ongoing McCartney split saga have propelled this topic into the top ten 'things' The Express has had on the front page so far this year.
A good way to rattle the chattering British middle classes is with a good crime fear story, but actually I can't pin that on the Express so far in 2007.
Their crime coverage has been driven by the suspected murder of Bob Woolmer during the Cricket World Cup, a couple of terrorism trials, the murder of a young child by a dog, and, well, erm, that's about it really.
They all added up though.
So at number 6, with 8 front page mentions so far this year, It is a case of, move along swiftly sir, nothing to see here, let's get stuck into the top 5 news topics of the year so far according to the Daily Express.
Fifth is frankly a lower than expected showing for the late Princess, who seemingly graces the cover of the paper every Monday. I read somewhere that putting a picture of Diana on the front page of the paper causes a jump in sales, but by that logic you'd think every souvenir postcard stall in London would be permanently sold out of pictures of the People's PrincessTM.
Perhaps their most desperate front page was the plea: "Diana: Let the people decide"
Sadly for their ABC circulation figures (falling 8% year-on-year in February), all but 0.75m people in the UK appear to have decided already that this ceased to be news, oh, I don't know, sometime ten years ago.
Not The Express though, as you can see...
I expect her to fare better than 5th place later in the year.
The Express has got the mawk-fest of the Wembley tribute concert to cover, followed by the bumper 10th anniversary extravaganza in August.
After all, it is what she would have wanted.
Well, assuming that she wouldn't have preferred not to have been killed in a car accident.
There are only three certainties in life.
And the Daily Express writing about death taxes
Well, to be honest, it isn't just death taxes they are worried about - it is most taxes. Stamp Duty. Council Tax. Income Tax. Stealth Tax. You name it.
But especially Council Tax.
One of the things about Daily Express tax stories is that they are always about "swingeing" tax rises, that will target families.
They also appear to have redefined the concept of a "stealth" tax to mean any taxation that isn't income tax.
Reading the headlines you'd be forgiven for thinking that Britain had a tax regime that left singletons and the co-habiting childless skipping around for joy at how light their share of the burden was.
Taxation has made the front page 12 times so far in 2007. Only one story was positive - "Tax refund for millions".
For most newspapers a campaign is sufficient, but not the Express. No, no. The Daily Express, you see, still uses the charming image of a Crusader knight in their masthead, and this year launched their own crusade against Inheritance Tax, which featured on the front page a few times.
Well, I say launched their own crusade, what they appeared to do was use the submission form on the Number 10 ePetitions site, and let them do the hard work of collating the signatures at the taxpayers expense, rather than the paper itself actually lifting a finger.
And funnily enough, there doesn't seem to have been a front page peep out of them on what a great success their campaign was after this year's budget was announced.
3: House prices, interest rates and the property market
The Daily Express seems to be trapped in a vicious weekly circle of publishing front pages which declare with great gusto the brilliant news that house prices are rising faster than ever before, and that every homeowner in Britain is "Rich, rich, RICH! I say", thanks to the equity on their house.
Then a week (or sometimes as little as two days) later they publish a story saying "oh-my-god-doom-gloom the interest rates might change and we are all in hock up to our necks, and we won't be able to afford the mortgage".
Housing market stories have appeared on the front page 13 times on the 57 front pages I checked so far this year. A Daily Express reader's home isn't just his castle, it is his daily news as well.
And I wouldn't mind, if it wasn't for the fact that the headlines don't make sense when viewed in chronological order.
At the start of the year house prices were rising, according to the Daily Express, by 15%. Come the 13th of February, however, and that rate had fallen - a swingeing fall I suspect - by a third, to just 10%.
However, two weeks later, on the 26th of February, house prices were soaring "again". Surely "again" implies that at some point they weren't soaring?
Or is it just that the Daily Express will re-cycle any old building society or estate agent press release into a front page story?
2: The Weather
Erm....seriously...the weather was the 2nd most important thing that happened in Britain so far this year for the Daily Express.
For most broadcasters the weather is a two minute bulletin after the news. For most newspapers the weather is a hideously complicated syndicated graphic tucked away on page 2.
But that isn't good enough for the Daily Express. Bad weather IS the news for them.
Of the front pages I looked at from this year, 17 of them, or just a shade under a third, featured the weather.
And I'm not just talking about the weather being a side feature here, or an excuse to put a picture of a pretty lady in a bikini "Phwoar what a scorcher" style.
We are talking full blown weather paranoia here - killer storms, winter roaring in, floods, snow, blizzards, the works.
They even managed to turn the traditional picture of children enjoying the snow into something sinister by adding the chilling strapline "More on the way and it won't be fun".
I guess it makes the newspaper the printed equivalent of polite 1950s British small talk with strangers. "I say old chap, bit of a cold spell at the moment, eh what?"
And so, that brings me around to what has been the most important story of the year so far for the Daily Express.....
Now, I know we've already had the NHS in this list, but those are bad health stories, caused by an inept, over-taxing, corrupt and lying Government that is actively conspiring against all Daily Express readers.
What I'm talking about here is the other type of Daily Express health story.
No quack solution is too tenuous to feature, no application for a research grant is too insignificant to claim that British scientists are close to "curing" something, and it seems they have a veritable A-Z of foodstuffs which will eliminate cancer as we know it.
Chocolate can save your life.
Chewing gum makes you slim.
Watercress cures cancer.
Microwave ovens can save your life.
And if the microwave doesn't work, then instead your life can be saved by a simple test at the chemists.
And then there was the stupendously badly written headline which seemed to imply that simply taking aspirin would render a quarter of the population immortal.
Always assuming, of course, that they are not in the quarter of the population facing 'killer storms', cricketing murder, or who ever have to visit an NHS hospital. Or people who end up in a mysteriously suspicious car crash in Paris.
And so there you have it - the most important topics in Britain today - Royal family WAGs, crime, divorce, Saint Diana, the housing market, tax, the weather and life-saving household objects.
I think I have figured out what the Express is for.
It is designed to render a portion of the population completely helpless - cowering in the corner of their ever-more valuable house, stuffing their faces with a life-saving cocktail of chocolate, watercress, and asiprin, and hoarding their money so that Gordon Brown can't steal it before they die. Which is almost certainly going to be caused by either freak weather conditions or the NHS attempting to treat them.
And as a bonus, I'd like to finish with my favourite Daily Express front page so far this year.
Surely someone at the Express was having a laugh the day they coupled the headline "Gift of Sight" with a promotion for a free bird-watching kit?
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With huge thanks to the Mail Watch site from where I liberated all the screenshots to do the analysis, and where you can keep up with and comment on the front pages of the Mail and the Express on a daily basis.