Cameron, Next and “padded bras”

Will the Conservative leader condemn the Tory party donor Simon Wolfson?

David Cameron yesterday was quick to condemn the high-street chain Primark as "disgraceful" for selling swimsuits with padded bras for seven- and eight-year-olds -- or "paedo bikinis", in the typically inimitable words of the Sun, which broke the story.

With the Tory manifesto highlighting the "sexualisation" and "commercialisation" of young children as a campaign issue, it's not surprising that the Tory leader was so "delighted" to see Primark apologise, and immediately withdraw the offensive clothing range, only days after his party's manifesto launch.

However, today's Sun moves the story on, reporting that other leading high-street clothing stores, including Next, Tammy and Peacocks, have been selling similar items. Next, says the Sun, sells "padded bras in Size 28AA in their girls' sections online".

So, will Cameron also be condemning Next as "disgraceful"? Will he be calling for a boycott of Next by parents of young girls? Or reminding Next of its responsibilities, as he did with Primark?

I doubt it. Next's chief executive is Simon Wolfson, one of David Cameron's most vociferous supporters in the business world, having donated to Cameron's campaign in the 2005 leadership election and co-chaired the party's Economic Competitiveness policy review.

He also happened to co-ordinate the all-important letter from business leaders backing the Tories' National Insurance policy last week. Oh, and his dad, Lord Wolfson, is a former Thatcher lackey.

So, expect radio silence from Cameron on Wolfson. Primark, BAD BAD BAD. Next, perhaps not so bad.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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