Keep your cool

Here's how to cope in the summer heat - if it ever arrives.

I ask this with hope in my heart: when the weather gets really hot, how do you keep your cool? Clothes-wise you really can't beat linen, however much the damn fibres crumple. The White Company has a sale on with some wonderful big, baggy linen trousers that have the right number of pockets and are cut to be comfortable without making you look, or feel, like a slob.

But really this isn't about clothes. It's about products that can help you cope with the heat (and rest assured that, unless stated, all those mentioned below work just as well for men as they do for women).

Certain smells are simply too claustrophobic when it gets hot. Creed makes some divine perfumes that are just right for the heat. Spring Flower is one - subtle, although too floral for men (you can't miss it in its garish pink bottle); but Royal Water, Silver Mountain Water and Zeste Mandarine Pamplemousse are all perfect for summer wearing: they make you smell expensive. Eau Dynamisante Moisturising Body Lotion from Clarins is the only lotion worth bothering about when summer comes. It is moisturising without being remotely heavy and it has a slightly bizarre cooling effect as you apply it, which is addictive. The smell wafts gloriously but unobtrusively about you all day.

I'm not overly keen on moisturisers with UV filters built in to them (another layer of chemicals on your skin), but I've been caught out when the sun has been stronger than I thought and ended up with a slapped-face look. Sisley makes a revolutionary cream called All Day All Year that protects against 90 per cent of UVA/B rays for eight continuous hours (the idea behind it is that anything that stops 100 per cent of rays, and that you wear every day, will eventually leave your skin unable to defend itself). If you already have a fav ourite cream, Clinique makes a superb product called City Block. In two formulations, sheer or super, it sits comfortably over moisturiser, irons out little imperfections in your skin (it's like a very light foundation, but men, don't be afraid of it!) and protects against the sun with an SPF of 25 or 40. A good product if you cycle or walk in to work.

The Chill Mate Cooling Neck Scarf from Beauty Naturals needs activating, but once done, it can keep you cool for a couple of hours - it has some variety of magic crystals in it. Ideal for commuting or gardening. I never use antiperspirants with aluminium in them - ergo, I never use antiperspirants, as it's the aluminium that stops the sweating - only fairly natural deodorants. But be warned. Some natural deodorants can make you smell even worse. The only three I've tested thoroughly enough to recommend so far are made by Neal's Yard Remedies (it does two types: both are excellent) and the Organic Pharmacy. The latter also makes a superb-smelling after-sun cream for when you've overdone it. But, for cooling properties, you can't beat Liz Earle's Aftersun Gel.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Bush: Is the president imploding?

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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

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