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.

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Vince Cable will need something snappier than a graduate tax to escape tuition fees

Perhaps he's placing his hopes in the “Anti Brexit People’s Liberation Front.” 

“We took power, and we got crushed,” Tim Farron said in what would turn out to be his final Autumn conference as Liberal Democrat leader, before hastening on to talk about Brexit and the need for a strong opposition.

A year and a snap election later, Vince Cable, the Lib Dem warhorse-turned-leader and the former Coalition business secretary, had plenty of cracks about Brexit.

He called for a second referendum – or what he dubbed a “first referendum on the facts” – and joked that he was “half prepared for a spell in a cell with Supreme Court judges, Gina Miller, Ken Clarke, and the governors of the BBC” for suggesting it".

Lib Dems, he suggested, were the “political adults” in the room, while Labour sat on the fence. Unlike Farron, however, he did not rule out the idea of working with Jeremy Corbyn, and urged "grown ups" in other parties to put aside their differences. “Jeremy – join us in the Anti Brexit People’s Liberation Front,” he said. The Lib Dems had been right on Iraq, and would be proved right on Brexit, he added. 

But unlike Farron, Cable revisited his party’s time in power.

“In government, we did a lot of good and we stopped a lot of bad,” he told conference. “Don’t let the Tories tell you that they lifted millions of low-earners out of income tax. We did… But we have paid a very high political price.”

Cable paid the price himself, when he lost his Twickenham seat in 2015, and saw his former Coalition colleague Nick Clegg turfed out of student-heavy Sheffield Hallam. However much the Lib Dems might wish it away, the tuition fees debate is here to stay, aided by some canny Labour manoeuvring, and no amount of opposition to Brexit will hide it.

“There is an elephant in the room,” the newly re-established MP for Twickenham said in his speech. “Debt – specifically student debt.” He defended the policy (he chose to vote for it in 2010, rather than abstain) for making sure universities were properly funded, but added: “Just because the system operates like a tax, we cannot escape the fact it isn’t seen as one.” He is reviewing options for the future, including a graduate tax. But students are unlikely to be cheering for a graduate tax when Labour is pledging to scrap tuition fees altogether.

There lies Cable’s challenge. Farron may have stepped down a week after the election declaring himself “torn” between religion and party, but if he had stayed, he would have had to face the fact that voters were happier to nibble Labour’s Brexit fudge (with lashings of free tuition fees), than choose a party on pure Remain principles alone.

“We are not a single-issue party…we’re not Ukip in reverse,” Cable said. “I see our future as a party of government.” In which case, the onus is on him to come up with something more inspiring than a graduate tax.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.