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?

David Young
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The Tories are the zombie party: with an ageing, falling membership, still they stagger on to victory

One Labour MP in Brighton spotted a baby in a red Babygro and said to me: “There’s our next [Labour] prime minister.”

All football clubs have “ultras” – and, increasingly, political parties do, too: although, in the case of political parties, their loudest and angriest supporters are mostly found on the internet. The SNP got there first: in the early days of email, journalists at the Scotsman used to receive bilious missives complaining about its coverage – or, on occasion, lack of coverage – of what the Scottish National Party was up to. The rest soon followed, with Ukip, the Labour Party and even the crushed Liberal Democrats now boasting a furious electronic horde.

The exception is the Conservative Party. Britain’s table-topping team might have its first majority in 18 years and is widely expected in Westminster to remain in power for another decade. But it doesn’t have any fans. The party’s conference in Manchester, like Labour’s in Brighton, will be full to bursting. But where the Labour shindig is chock-full of members, trade unionists and hangers-on from the charitable sector, the Conservative gathering is a more corporate affair: at the fringes I attended last year, lobbyists outnumbered members by four to one. At one, the journalist Peter Oborne demanded to know how many people in the room were party members. It was standing room only – but just four people put their hands up.

During Grant Shapps’s stint at Conservative headquarters, serious attempts were made to revive membership. Shapps, a figure who is underrated because of his online blunders, and his co-chair Andrew Feldman were able to reverse some of the decline, but they were running just to stand still. Some of the biggest increases in membership came in urban centres where the Tories are not in contention to win a seat.

All this made the 2015 election win the triumph of a husk. A party with a membership in long-term and perhaps irreversible decline, which in many seats had no activists at all, delivered crushing defeats to its opponents across England and Wales.

Like José Mourinho’s sides, which, he once boasted, won “without the ball”, the Conservatives won without members. In Cumbria the party had no ground campaign and two paper candidates. But letters written by the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, were posted to every household where someone was employed making Trident submarines, warning that their jobs would be under threat under a Labour government. This helped the Tories come close to taking out both Labour MPs, John Woodcock in Barrow and Furness and Jamie Reed in Copeland. It was no small feat: Labour has held Barrow since 1992 and has won Copeland at every election it has fought.

The Tories have become the zombies of British politics: still moving though dead from the neck down. And not only moving, but thriving. One Labour MP in Brighton spotted a baby in a red Babygro and said to me: “There’s our next [Labour] prime minister.” His Conservative counterparts also believe that their rivals are out of power for at least a decade.

Yet there are more threats to the zombie Tories than commonly believed. The European referendum will cause endless trouble for their whips over the coming years. And for all there’s a spring in the Conservative step at the moment, the party has a majority of only 12 in the Commons. Parliamentary defeats could easily become commonplace. But now that Labour has elected Jeremy Corbyn – either a more consensual or a more chaotic leader than his predecessors, depending on your perspective – division within parties will become a feature, rather than a quirk, at Westminster. There will be “splits” aplenty on both sides of the House.

The bigger threat to Tory hegemony is the spending cuts to come, and the still vulnerable state of the British economy. In the last parliament, George Osborne’s cuts fell predominantly on the poorest and those working in the public sector. They were accompanied by an extravagant outlay to affluent retirees. As my colleague Helen Lewis wrote last week, over the next five years, cuts will fall on the sharp-elbowed middle classes, not just the vulnerable. Reductions in tax credits, so popular among voters in the abstract, may prove just as toxic as the poll tax and the abolition of the 10p bottom income-tax rate – both of which were popular until they were actually implemented.

Added to that, the British economy has what the economist Stephen King calls “the Titanic problem”: a surplus of icebergs, a deficit of lifeboats. Many of the levers used by Gordon Brown and Mervyn King in the last recession are not available to David Cameron and the chief of the Bank of England, Mark Carney: debt-funded fiscal stimulus is off the table because the public finances are already in the red. Interest rates are already at rock bottom.

Yet against that grim backdrop, the Conservatives retain the two trump cards that allowed them to win in May: questions about Labour’s economic competence, and the personal allure of David Cameron. The public is still convinced that the cuts are the result of “the mess” left by Labour, however unfair that charge may be. If a second crisis strikes, it could still be the Tories who feel the benefit, if they can convince voters that the poor state of the finances is still the result of New Labour excess rather than Cameroon failure.

As for Cameron, in 2015 it was his lead over Ed Miliband as Britons’ preferred prime minister that helped the Conservatives over the line. This time, it is his withdrawal from politics which could hand the Tories a victory even if the economy tanks or cuts become widely unpopular. He could absorb the hatred for the failures and the U-turns, and then hand over to a fresher face. Nicky Morgan or a Sajid Javid, say, could yet repeat John Major’s trick in 1992, breathing life into a seemingly doomed Conservative project. For Labour, the Tory zombie remains frustratingly lively. 

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

This article first appeared in the 01 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide