Slightly sexist?

Hazel Blears's height, the Zimmers and Tinky Winky's sexual orientation

Dear Marina,

I was watching the deputy hustings on Newsnight the other day and thought that Cruddas was gorgeous. But why was Hazel Blears sitting on a chair all the way through. Do you know why?
 
Confused of the North East
 
At 4ft 10 inches Ms Blears punches well above her height in the Labour party. But she obviously lacks influence at the BBC where the Newsnight director could easily have arranged for candidates to be seated, thus allowing the cameras to track smoothly along the line up without skimming across the top of her head and on to the next candidate.

Or they could have given her a soap box to stand on. There’s not enough of that sort of business in politics these days. I call upon the chair of the Labour Party to carry her own in future. I may not agree with all she says (suggesting criminals be dressed orange boiler suits for community work – I ask you) but she’s a feisty female and I have to respect her ilk. As for you, confused of North East, I suspect you are slightly sexist and really, quite rude.

Dear Marina,

Pop music has sunk to a new low. I thought we'd seen it all with Mr Blobby but now fame - hungry pop artists are dressing up as pensioners just to get in the top ten. What next, people in terrorist bomb belts singing Auld Lang Syne?

Angry of Peckham

Don’t be crass. The Zimmers, a band with a collective age of over 3000, has released a cover version of The Who’s My Generation to raise awareness of the plight of the elderly and cash for Age Concern.

The elderly are a much maligned and extremely lonely demographic mainly due to them living too long to be much use, not being able to resist voting Tory and hating young people.

But Age Concern does much good, for example electric blanket checking and podiatry sessions. So go out and buy the record. These people were active in the war, for which we must be grateful. And how have they been repaid? Their pensions don’t keep up with fuel price and council tax rises, they pass on still waiting for hearing aids, cataracts and hip operations on the NHS and get rewarded for their voting habits by continued council tax rises and cuts to essential adult social services.

Either they’ll learn, or die trying.

Dear Marina,

I am a bloke who likes to wear a purple babygrow with a coat hanger sticking out of my head, so imagine my shock when Ewa Sowinska who is influential in the Polish government took issue with my handbag saying it made me seem like a poofter. Has the world gone mad?
 
Tinky Winky

I think what Ewa Sowinska actually said is you and your purse could possibly promote homosexuality. Interesting, given the majority of those watching are babies – could their sexuality really be influenced by an actor in a purple jump suit carrying the kind of handbag made iconic by Maggie T?

I have only two concerns: firstly Teletubbies encourages students to smoke too much dope. Secondly, the programme inculcates TV viewing habits which is soooooo bad for young tots, stifling communication skills and setting them up for a life on the sofa watching crap.

Swing your handbag with pride, Tinky Winky. If Teletubbies gets banned in Poland we’ll have more communicative plumbers and bar staff and the skunk will go further in a drought.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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The campaign to keep Britain in Europe must be based on hope, not fear

Together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of.

Today the Liberal Democrats launched our national campaign to keep Britain in Europe. With the polls showing the outcome of this referendum is on a knife-edge, our party is determined to play a decisive role in this once in a generation fight. This will not be an easy campaign. But it is one we will relish as the UK's most outward-looking and internationalist party. Together in Europe the UK has delivered peace, created the world’s largest free trade area and given the British people the opportunity to live, work and travel freely across the continent. Now is the time to build on these achievements, not throw them all away.

Already we are hearing fear-mongering from both sides in this heated debate. On the one hand, Ukip and the feuding Leave campaigns have shamelessly seized on the events in Cologne at New Year to claim that British women will be at risk if the UK stays in Europe. On the other, David Cameron claims that the refugees he derides as a "bunch of migrants" in Calais will all descend on the other side of the Channel the minute Britain leaves the EU. The British public deserve better than this. Rather than constant mud-slinging and politicising of the world's biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, we need a frank and honest debate about what is really at stake. Most importantly this should be a positive campaign, one that is fought on hope and not on fear. As we have a seen in Scotland, a referendum won through scare tactics alone risks winning the battle but losing the war.

The voice of business and civil society, from scientists and the police to environmental charities, have a crucial role to play in explaining how being in the EU benefits the British economy and enhances people's everyday lives. All those who believe in Britain's EU membership must not be afraid to speak out and make the positive case why being in Europe makes us more prosperous, stable and secure. Because at its heart this debate is not just about facts and figures, it is about what kind of country we want to be.

The Leave campaigns cannot agree what they believe in. Some want the UK to be an offshore, deregulated tax haven, others advocate a protectionist, mean-hearted country that shuts it doors to the world. As with so many populist movements, from Putin to Trump, they are defined not by what they are for but what they are against. Their failure to come up with a credible vision for our country's future is not patriotic, it is irresponsible.

This leaves the field open to put forward a united vision of Britain's place in Europe and the world. Liberal Democrats are clear what we believe in: an open, inclusive and tolerant nation that stands tall in the world and doesn't hide from it. We are not uncritical of the EU's institutions. Indeed as Liberals, we fiercely believe that power must be devolved to the lowest possible level, empowering communities and individuals wherever possible to make decisions for themselves. But we recognise that staying in Europe is the best way to find the solutions to the problems that don't stop at borders, rather than leaving them to our children and grandchildren. We believe Britain must put itself at the heart of our continent's future and shape a more effective and more accountable Europe, focused on responding to major global challenges we face.

Together in Europe we can build a strong and prosperous future, from pioneering research into life-saving new medicines to tackling climate change and fighting international crime. Together we can provide hope for the desperate and spread the peace we now take for granted to the rest of the world. And together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of. So if you agree then join the Liberal Democrat campaign today, to remain in together, and to stand up for the type of Britain you think we should be.