Fashion models shape up badly against female athletes: but why compare them?

They never said they were role models.

At some point in the closing ceremony last night they brought out the fashion models, and the internet exploded.

Well I disagree - they're not bad role models. They're not role models. They never said they were role models. They're just people who sell clothes. Shona Robison and co are giving the fashion industry far too much credit - as though it represents some cultural zenith. People who are good at sport, or indeed have any particular talent, don't generally become models. In fact these girls used to be known as "mannequins": a term which puts the job much more succinctly in its place. 

This is one reason why the show America's Next Top Model is such a farce - because you really don't have to put people through competitive "heats" to judge how good they look in a dress. A more realistic formula (and with more bitchy fun) would be a series of rounds trialling the girls for alternative careers, and seeing which of them still have to be models. You're not qualified to be a doctor, you're too slow to be an athlete, you're not good enough at maths to be an accountant: congratulations, you're still in the running to becoming America's Next Top Model!

We should all stop putting the fashion industry on a pedestal, then bullying it for not deserving to be there. Even if the fashion industry did bulk up its models - using healthy looking, muscular women - as a post-Olympic hoard are urging it to do, everyone has to face up to the fact that walking up and down looking cross is never going to be a particularly inspiring career. Leave Kate Moss and co alone! They look miserable enough as it is.

Lily Cole, Kate Moss etc at the closing ceremony. Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.