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 Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.