Royal baby? This has been the mother of all media frenzies
The intense national squawking about the royal baby has turned us into a nation of flapping mother-in-laws. We seem to have forgotten that this little bundle of joy will make next to no difference to any of our day-to-day lives.
Five hundred years ago a royal baby was something to get excited about. Back then the existence, or otherwise, of a pinkle-punkle in the infant's middle regions was of such primary importance it decided the fate of nations. A male heir meant political stability for decades to come. Without one, everyone in the land faced the dangers of civil war. Until a monarch had a son, the entire nation was on tenterhooks.
Skip forward to 2013, and the nation is still on tenterhooks. But only because the 24-hour media has drummed up excitement to a level of obsessiveness which makes the coalition's determined bashing of benefit scroungers seem like a passing trend.
Forgive me for not falling off my chair with excitement at the possibility that a baby born today could become my head of state in 50 years' time. History is littered with heirs to the throne who didn't end up with a crown on their heads. Just ask the present Queen. Her father only became king because of the romantic misadventures of his brother. While this baby is technically in line to be the 43rd British monarch since William the Conqueror, I won't be holding my breath.
The last week or so has been not so much a perfect storm but a perfect calm of non-news: the absence of any substantial development combined with global interest in something which hasn't happened yet. The result? Hacks camped outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's hospital have been slowly losing their minds. It was the same in 2010, when political journalists camped out on the steps of the Cabinet Office while inside the coalition endured its own painful labour. Let's hope the end result is prettier this time around.
'Please do not feed the journalists', one sign states. The problem is most first-time mothers do not actually give birth until a week or so after their official due date. Kate is no exception in keeping everyone waiting – and prolonging the agony for those of us who aren't actually that bovvered.
It occurred to me that, even though I spend my days in the corridors of power, I will in all probability never meet this baby. In the modern world Britain's royal family are best classified in the celebrity category, and certainly not the political one. They hold no influence. They are merely the servants of a system which requires that they live their lives in the public gaze. This child hasn't asked for it though. All the more reason not to add to the pressure by avidly following its appearance into a world of flashing camera-bulbs and lurid tabloid news stories.
Constitutionally, it's not a big deal whether this one's a girl or not, either. You might have heard about something called the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which ends royal boys' trump card over royal girls. That is a big change but doesn't affect this infant's place in the succession. Regardless, it will be next in line after its father Prince William. It's only if we do get a girl, and a subsequent son is born, that it really matters.
Half a millennium ago, it was the threat to economic prosperity which made royal babies such a big deal. That appears to be the case now, with a preponderance of disconcertingly odd souvenirs which will surely get the economy moving again. Forgive me if I'm not convinced sales of a 60-piece royal baby celebration crockery pack or CDs of royal lullabies will be what it takes to end this country's economic malaise.
Still, in the end it's the baby's link with £££ which trumps everything. The biggest impact on my life of this royalist extravaganza has nothing to do with politics. My mother's business, which sells cross-stitch kits to needle-and-thread types, is about to be deluged with demand for royal baby products. This significantly increases the chances of my receiving a decent present come Christmas time.
For that, and that reason alone, even I will be celebrating once the baby is born. It will be the icing on the christening cake that all this farrago of flapping excitement and withering sarcasm will finally be over.