Top Gear's latest ad boldly goes where the 1950s went, like, all that time ago

The ADgenda: this week's most offensive advert.

For a show striving towards boldly going where no man has gone before on four wheels, Top Gear’s latest advert has gone where many men have gone before – 1950s gender stereotypes. In the newest trailer, the men are shown getting up to their usual manly antics revving through mud and knocking giant balls around while the women, inexplicably reminiscent of a housewife stereotype, whine about the mess the boys have made of their clothes. Meanwhile, a young and pretty woman is polishing the Stig’s helmet. And suddenly all the gender stereotypes the media has been gently edging away from for decades are blown back in our faces.

Top Gear hasn’t been the greatest feminist advocate, it’s true. Jeremy Clarkson’s presence alone is enough to burn straight through to the “banter” hashtag on twitter. But there’s something about how unsurprising this is as a Top Gear advert that makes it so much more surprising. Of course the excitement of rallies and rugby would be contrasted with mundane womanly housework. Of course there would be a pretty girl to show how cool they are and how uncool women over 30 are. And, of course, its fans would advise a “sense of humour transplant” to anybody criticising a single frame of the show;  under Lorraine Candy’s article in the Daily Mail is scrawled a plethora of attacks guarding their beloved show from the cruel hand of a “dried-up old feminist”. But we could probably use a few dried-up old feminists scrubbing the misogynism out of the trio’s muddy reputations. 

Instead of desensitising ourselves into a “sense of humour” bland enough to find misogynism funny, maybe The Boys should work on the absolute minimum requirement of sensitivity that it takes to avoid association with the #everydaysexism tag. It doesn’t take that much out of you, I swear. 

Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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Theresa May's U-Turn may have just traded one problem for another

The problems of the policy have been moved, not eradicated. 

That didn’t take long. Theresa May has U-Turned on her plan to make people personally liable for the costs of social care until they have just £100,000 worth of assets, including property, left.

As the average home is valued at £317,000, in practice, that meant that most property owners would have to remortgage their house in order to pay for the cost of their social care. That upwards of 75 per cent of baby boomers – the largest group in the UK, both in terms of raw numbers and their higher tendency to vote – own their homes made the proposal politically toxic.

(The political pain is more acute when you remember that, on the whole, the properties owned by the elderly are worth more than those owned by the young. Why? Because most first-time buyers purchase small flats and most retirees are in large family homes.)

The proposal would have meant that while people who in old age fall foul of long-term degenerative illnesses like Alzheimers would in practice face an inheritance tax threshold of £100,000, people who die suddenly would face one of £1m, ten times higher than that paid by those requiring longer-term care. Small wonder the proposal was swiftly dubbed a “dementia tax”.

The Conservatives are now proposing “an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs”. The actual amount is TBD, and will be the subject of a consultation should the Tories win the election. May went further, laying out the following guarantees:

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care.  We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.  We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

There are a couple of problems here. The proposed policy already had a cap of sorts –on the amount you were allowed to have left over from meeting your own care costs, ie, under £100,000. Although the system – effectively an inheritance tax by lottery – displeased practically everyone and spooked elderly voters, it was at least progressive, in that the lottery was paid by people with assets above £100,000.

Under the new proposal, the lottery remains in place – if you die quickly or don’t require expensive social care, you get to keep all your assets, large or small – but the losers are the poorest pensioners. (Put simply, if there is a cap on costs at £25,000, then people with assets below that in value will see them swallowed up, but people with assets above that value will have them protected.)  That is compounded still further if home-owners are allowed to retain their homes.

So it’s still a dementia tax – it’s just a regressive dementia tax.

It also means that the Conservatives have traded going into the election’s final weeks facing accusations that they will force people to sell their own homes for going into the election facing questions over what a “reasonable” cap on care costs is, and you don’t have to be very imaginative to see how that could cause them trouble.

They’ve U-Turned alright, but they may simply have swerved away from one collision into another.  

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

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