Trinny and Susannah fats your lot

Thought the freak show was a thing of the past? Well check out the programmes that make the overweig

You know how the Americans used to pay money to look at the deformed in circus freak shows? If that appeals to you, try the modern day version.

The utterly loathsome programme Trinny and Susannah undress the nation is another spin on the Gok Wan show how to look good naked. (Notice I'm not linking to either of them).

I'm not sure which came first but basically both have the same purpose - to get women of above average size, already insecure about their bodies, to take off their clothes so we can all sit at home and wonder at their flabby bits.

The Trinny and Susannah programme this week masqueraded as a campaign for better clothing choices for overweight women.

And it's a work of utter manipulation. Put someone in front of a camera for long enough and they'll very quickly forget it's there. Then you flatter, cajole and emotionally blackmail until the victims do just as you bid.

You can see how these people, forgetful of the national exposure they are about to have, will get their kit off in a sort of 'nudge, nudge - I will if you will' kind of a way.

Of course the presenters remain as they are - in the case of Trinny and Susannah: overprivileged, heavily coiffed, fully dressed and diving in only to hilariously grope someone's breasts or coax some tears.

This week they persuaded a group of unfortunate women who couldn't find fashions they liked, because of their shapes, to join them in taking on the high street retailers!

With a mixture of flattery and coersion, they played big on the curious way people are impressed and overawed by others simply because they appear on TV.

And in a grand finale, they had them conveyed on floats through Boston in Lincolnshire - apparently a national fat-spot.

Mind you before we got there they all had to stand around in their underwear for a good while - just so we could fully understand what they were up against.

And thanks to Trinny and Susannah we've learnt not to tease the obese but be lovely to them and put them nearly naked on national TV. How far we've come.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.