Tory Party Chairman Grant Shapps has praised the restraint of the UK press (which refused to carry the pictures published by French and Italian mags/papers and widely circulating online), and has gone so far as to say this will be taken into account when the gov't responds to Leveson in a few months time. That is being interpreted as the strongest signal yet that self-regulation, amazingly, will be given yet another 'final' chance, albeit beefed up with the power to levy fines very likely to be added.
Politically, that poses a problem for Labour - if they condemn this as a cynical ploy to win press support for the Conservatives, or seek to characterise it as the Tories cosying up to their big business/millionaire donors and supporters, then they risk being opposed by the entire press in the next election, and the run-up to it. As we've seen several times before, both major parties have backed off introducing fundamental reform of press regulation due to electoral calculations.
Richard Desmond is seeking to position himself as an unlikely gentleman press proprietor: he part-owns the Irish Daily Star which did publish the pics ... and has threatened to close the paper as a result.
You can follow the developing story on this through several Guardian portals:
Privacy & the media
The Duchess of Cambridge
(plus Leveson, press regulation etc)
Here's one which might escape attention: an opinion piece by columnist Catherine Bennett, who argues that the royal role is defined by invasion of privacy, and considers the Duchess a grossly objectified woman. She argues that the Uk press' condemnation of the French/Italian publication of the photos is hypocritical when the same grandstanding UK papers are forensically examining Kate's body for signs of pregnancy.
Here's another one flagging up the hypocrisy of the likes of Desmond: fulminating over these pics whilst continuing the page 3 tradition and publishing red-carpet 'wardrobe malfunctions'...
The British public is up in arms at a young woman's breasts being used to sell magazines. The Duchess of Cambridge's boobs should not be gawped at, commentators point out. Her privacy has been invaded in a shocking manner, everyone agrees. Even Richard Desmond – the former publisher of Asian Babes – says he is so furious the Irish Daily Star dared to use the photos he may shut his whole paper down....
So does this mean breasts will no longer take centre stage in a certain sort of newspaper, magazine or website? Well, not exactly. The UK Daily Star today has a poignant headline about the royal scandal – "Kate's smile hides the pain" – but still fills up page 3 with a picture of a topless 22-year-old. Online it has a whole section devoted to boobs or, at it calls it, babes.
The Sun, too, sees no hypocrisy in supporting the duke and duchess's bid to sue the photographer responsible for snapping Kate's chest in a Sun Says editorial – just a couple of pages after printing a picture of Kelly, 22, from Daventry with her own breasts exposed. Online the newspaper has a host of scantily clad women for readers to pore over, such as Georgia Salpa in a bikini, Maria Fowler "flashing her cleavage", and Kelly Brook posing for a new calender.
The People may not be printing pictures of Kate but they see no reason not to use photos of Helen Mirren, snapped by paparazzi on the beach in a bikini, to illustrate a story about the actor getting a facelift. Their centre spread feature is made up of images of former teenage sex worker Zahia Dehar in see-through lingerie.
The Mirror's website implies it is bored with printing pictures of Emma Watson's "sideboob" but does anyway – just as they published images last week showing part of her nipple, when her dress slipped. While on the front of their site they have a naked Jenny Thompson (who once slept with Wayne Rooney) covering her breasts and genitals with her hands.
The Daily Mail may be shocked at the treatment of Kate but its notorious website sidebar is crammed full of pictures drawing attention to celebrities' breasts – from Nicole Richie in a cleavage-exposing dress, to Halle Berry in a bikini and Amanda Bynes in a low cut top.
The message it seems, is clear – it's fine to print pictures of half naked women, as long as they are not heading for the throne.