Ten Halloween costumes that will save you from dressing up as Miley Cyrus

Thinking of reaching for a leotard and a suggestive foam finger so you can twerk your way through the spookiest night of the year? Think again!

Halloween is nearly here, and we’re preparing to be invaded by an army of twerking, wrecking ball-riding Miley Cyri. The Miley Cyrus costume has already reached ubiquity and you can learn how to make one here, here and here. As the more traditional and wholesome Halloween get-ups (the Frankenstein, the Dracula, the Maggie Thatcher) are replaced by ones that scream, “Look at me. I get popular culture”, here are ten costumes a bit better than a leotard and a suggestive foam finger:

1. An open letter

From Sinéad O’Connor to Sufjan Stevens, the verbose outpourings of several public figures have rendered 2013 the year of the open letter. And what could be more frightening than a celebrity dying of altitude sickness, atop its high horse? Plus, this makes for an easy costume; just look papery and sanctimonious.

2. A penis beaker

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled through the trees, the stairs creaked and the sodden, post-coital willy went splosh, into a cup. The Mumsnet-spawned internet sensation, “Penis Beaker”, is by far the scariest story of the year. Although I’m not entirely sure how to dress up as a normal beaker, let alone a penis one; if well-executed, this costume is a guaranteed hit. Hint: you will pull.

3. Morrissey’s ego

The Smiths frontman’s autobiography just made history by instantly moaning its way into the lofty realms of Penguin Classics. Why not celebrate by going to a Halloween Party as This Charming Man’s ego? It’s easy; just dress up as big as possible. This can be achieved with five jumpers, a puffer jacket and a duvet cloak. What’s more, Morrissey’s ego also works as a two-person costume. Just get a friend to dress up as a penguin and massage you all evening.

4. Jeremy Paxman’s beard

As far as controversial facial hair goes, Paxo’s stubble is the fuzzy apex. This costume is a sensible choice for cat/dog owners. Just cover yourself in PVA glue and rub little Mittens and/or Rover all over your naked body. Try not to look like 1970s porn.

5. A poisonous vagina

Michael Douglas made head(ha!)lines earlier this year, when he loudly and publicly announced that he got throat cancer from going down on too many women. What a great day for hypochondriacal lesbians everywhere. Meanwhile, a Brazilian woman tried to murder her husband by lacing her vagina with poison. So, move over Open Letter, 2013 may actually be the year of the toxic twat. Combine Poisonous Vagina with Penis Beaker for the perfect couples’ costume.

6. Taylor Swift

I don’t understand all the quacking, frenzied hoo-hah about Miley Cyrus. As far as I can tell, aside from having enough money to buy Luxembourg, she’s the most normal 20-year-old girl who ever lived. Taylor Swift, on the other hand, gives me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it’s that permanent half-smile that seems to say, “I buried my governess in a shallow grave”; maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent actual minutes wondering what’s hiding underneath that porkpie hat. Either way, a Taylor Swift costume this Halloween will guarantee a shudder from me, at least.

7. Vladimir Putin

A Putin mask is an excellent way to lampoon one of the foremost bogeyman of 2013. For extra authenticity, remove your shirt, strike a devastatingly camp pose and refuse to engage with any gay people or women who might be at the Halloween party.

8. Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange

I repeat; not just Julian Assange, but Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. To mark the release of The Fifth Estate, in which the angular actor plays the arsy activist, I suggest a combination of a Cumberbatch face cut-out and a mop placed jauntily atop your head. Assange was eerie enough before he morphed with Cumberbatch to make Cumbersange; the pallid truth-seeker of your nightmares.

9. A One Direction fan

. . . Or a “Directioner” as one is known, rather ominously. Fans of the world’s most attractive embryos have outdone themselves in buttock-clenched devotion this year, tweeting death threats at anyone who isn’t that keen on their favourite band. Harry Styles has over 17 million Twitter followers. It’s been scientifically proven that at least 87 per cent of those people can and will garrotte you while you sleep. Forget the zombie apocalypse, the Directioner apocalypse is well on its way. To get the look, scrawl “1D 4 EVA” on a T-shirt, in your own blood.

10. A Breaking Bad mourner

Millions were devastated when we said goodbye to the greatest TV programme about methamphetamine, ever. So why not pay your respects and go the full Victorian widow? You’ll need a long black dress, a veil and a locket containing a picture of Bryan Cranston. Extra points for a Woman in Black-style rocking chair.

 

Vladimir Putin was arguably the foremost bogeyman of 2013. To add extra authenticity to your costume, remove your shirt. Photo: Getty

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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There is nothing compassionate about Britain’s Dickensian tolerance of begging

I was called “heartless” for urging police to refer beggars to support services. But funding drug habits to salve a liberal conscience is the truly cruel approach.

In Rochdale, like many other towns across the country, we’re working hard to support small businesses and make our high streets inviting places for people to visit. So it doesn’t help when growing numbers of aggressive street beggars are becoming a regular fixture on the streets, accosting shoppers.

I’ve raised this with the police on several occasions now and when I tweeted that they needed to enforce laws preventing begging and refer them to appropriate services, all hell broke loose on social media. I was condemned as heartless, evil and, of course, the favourite insult of all left-wing trolls, “a Tory”.

An article in the Guardian supported this knee-jerk consensus that I was a typically out-of-touch politician who didn’t understand the underlying reasons for begging and accused me of being “misguided” and showing “open disdain” for the poor. 

The problem is, this isn’t true, as I know plenty about begging.

Before I became an MP, I worked as a researcher for The Big Issue and went on to set up a social research company that carried out significant research on street begging, including a major report that was published by the homeless charity, Crisis.

When I worked at The Big Issue, the strapline on the magazine used to say: “Working not Begging”. This encapsulated its philosophy of dignity in work and empowering people to help themselves. I’ve seen many people’s lives transformed through the work of The Big Issue, but I’ve never seen one person’s life transformed by thrusting small change at them as they beg in the street.

The Big Issue’s founder, John Bird, has argued this position very eloquently over the years. Giving to beggars helps no one, he says. “On the contrary, it locks the beggar in a downward spiral of abject dependency and victimhood, where all self-respect, honesty and hope are lost.”

Even though he’s now doing great work in the House of Lords, much of Bird’s transformative zeal is lost on politicians. Too many on the right have no interest in helping the poor, while too many on the left are more interested in easing their conscience than grappling with the hard solutions required to turn chaotic lives around.

But a good starting point is always to examine the facts.

The Labour leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Leese, has cited evidence that suggests that 80 per cent of street beggars in Manchester are not homeless. And national police figures have shown that fewer than one in five people arrested for begging are homeless.

Further research overwhelmingly shows the most powerful motivating force behind begging is to fund drug addiction. The homeless charity, Thames Reach, estimates that 80 per cent of beggars in London do so to support a drug habit, particularly crack cocaine and heroin, while drug-testing figures by the Metropolitan Police on beggars indicated that between 70 and 80 per cent tested positive for Class A drugs.

It’s important to distinguish that homelessness and begging can be very different sets of circumstances. As Thames Reach puts it, “most rough sleepers don’t beg and most beggars aren’t rough sleepers”.

And this is why they often require different solutions.

In the case of begging, breaking a chaotic drug dependency is hard and the important first step is arrest referral – ie. the police referring beggars on to specialised support services.  The police approach to begging is inconsistent – with action often only coming after local pressure. For example, when West Midlands Police received over 1,000 complaints about street begging, a crackdown was launched. This is not the case everywhere, but only the police have the power to pick beggars up and start a process that can turn their lives around.

With drug-related deaths hitting record levels in England and Wales in recent years, combined with cuts to drug addiction services and a nine per cent cut to local authority health budgets over the next three years, all the conditions are in place for things to get a lot worse.

This week there will be an important homelessness debate in Parliament, as Bob Blackman MP's Homelessness Reduction Bill is due to come back before the House of Commons for report stage. This is welcome legislation, but until we start to properly distinguish the unique set of problems and needs that beggars have, I fear begging on the streets will increase.

Eighteen years ago, I was involved in a report called Drugs at the Sharp End, which called on the government to urgently review its drug strategy. Its findings were presented to the government’s drugs czar Keith Hellawell on Newsnight and there was a sense that the penny was finally dropping.

I feel we’ve gone backwards since then. Not just in the progress that has been undone through services being cut, but also in terms of general attitudes towards begging.

A Dickensian tolerance of begging demonstrates an appalling Victorian attitude that has no place in 21st century Britain. Do we really think it’s acceptable for our fellow citizens to live as beggars with no real way out? And well-meaning displays of “compassion” are losing touch with pragmatic policy. This well-intentioned approach is starting to become symptomatic of the shallow, placard-waving gesture politics of the left, which helps no one and has no connection to meaningful action.

If we’re going make sure begging has no place in modern Britain, then we can’t let misguided sentiment get in the way of a genuine drive to transform lives through evidenced-based effective policy.

Simon Danczuk is MP for Rochdale.