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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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.