Amanda Platell notes Piers Morgan's two left feet

Piers Morgan's two left feet, and why I'll never agree to a make-over by Trinny and Susannah

For those of you who have not become enthralled with Strictly Come Dancing or The X-Factor on Saturday evenings, Piers Morgan and I are launching a political TV show on Channel 4 on 6 November. In Morgan and Platell, I interrogate from the right, Piers from the left. It will not be dull.

Given the competition, we did consider wearing skin-tight sequins, but I told Piers they wouldn't look good on a bloke. A quickstep around the studio was ruled out on the grounds that Piers has two left feet. Some say that's the only lefty thing about him, but they're wrong.

And while we're on the subject of fast footwork, the TV gardener Diarmuid Gavin scored the lowest points with the judges on BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing, yet was voted to stay in by the public. Like Piers, he has also been accused of having two left feet. This is not accurate. He dances as though he has no feet. He is, in fact, the Douglas Bader of ballroom.

I read that Trinny and Susannah - those TV toffs who beat up on ordinary women, tell them they look ugly and fat, grope their breasts, then give them a cheap make-over guaranteed to last about as long as one of Tony Blair's promises on, well, anything - now charge £30,000 for a private session. Imagine that, £30,000 to look as if you've just run amok in a Topshop sale.

Occasionally, very, very occasionally I am approached by a "fan". It happened the other day in Cafe Rouge, where I was lunching alone, as is my wont. The woman next to me leaned across and said: "You're Amanda Platell, aren't you?" I smiled. "You write for the Daily Mail, don't you?" She was clearly not a New Statesman reader, but none the less I rose to my full sitting height, anticipating a compliment. "So you must know that lovely Quentin Letts. Isn't he wonderful?" I was then subjected to a ten-minute Letts love-in. I didn't really mind: after reading his sketch on Tessa Jowell's parliamentary performance during the debate about her gambling bill - "Here was a trainee croupier, blushing before hardened card sharks" - I had to agree with my fellow diner.

It comes to us all: the moment we Join A Local Campaign. Yes, the sight of one of Ken Livingstone's buses parked at South End Green with its engine on, pumping out pollution over those of us who still sit outside with the kids in the roadside cafes, has moved me to action. I have joined Hampstead's Save Our Green campaign, to stop even more buses being parked there. It's not a pretty green, but it is ours, and is home to a very nice group of permanent drinkers. For all of us, it's worth saving. If you feel moved to join, contact:

With 180,000 of its 660,906 readers having hitherto insisted on taking the broadsheet, myself among them, this has been an anxious period for the Times. It converted solely to a tabloid on 1 November. (I still refuse to submit to the broadsheet snobbery of calling it a compact.) I hope my anxiety over the success of this format is as misplaced as it was in the case of the Independent. The difference is that the Times is a paper of record, it has a magnificent history, and somehow it loses gravitas in the smaller size. Having known the editor, Robert Thomson, since we met as cadets on the Sydney Morning Herald, I really do wish him well. Perhaps the stacks of papers left in newsagents around north London on Saturday - stacks of the final broadsheet, the collector's item - are a sign that size doesn't matter any more.

This article first appeared in the 08 November 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Bleak morning in America

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The strange death of boozy Britain: why are young people drinking less?

Ditching alcohol for work.

Whenever horrific tales of the drunken escapades of the youth are reported, one photo reliably gets wheeled out: "bench girl", a young woman lying passed out on a public bench above bottles of booze in Bristol. The image is in urgent need of updating: it is now a decade old. Britain has spent that time moving away from booze.

Individual alcohol consumption in Britain has declined sharply. In 2013, the average person over 15 consumed 9.4 litres of alcohol, 19 per cent less than 2004. As with drugs, the decline in use among the young is particularly notable: the proportion of young adults who are teetotal increased by 40 per cent between 2005 and 2013. But decreased drinking is not only apparent among the young fogeys: 80 per cent of adults are making some effort to drink less, according to a new study by consumer trends agency Future Foundation. No wonder that half of all nightclubs have closed in the last decade. Pubs are also closing down: there are 13 per cent fewer pubs in the UK than in 2002. 

People are too busy vying to get ahead at work to indulge in drinking. A combination of the recession, globalisation and technology has combined to make the work of work more competitive than ever: bad news for alcohol companies. “The cost-benefit analysis for people of going out and getting hammered starts to go out of favour,” says Will Seymour of Future Foundation.

Vincent Dignan is the founder of Magnific, a company that helps tech start-ups. He identifies ditching regular boozing as a turning point in his career. “I noticed a trend of other entrepreneurs drinking three, four or five times a week at different events, while their companies went nowhere,” he says. “I realised I couldn't be just another British guy getting pissed and being mildly hungover while trying to scale a website to a million visitors a month. I feel I have a very slight edge on everyone else. While they're sleeping in, I'm working.” Dignan now only drinks occasionally; he went three months without having a drop of alcohol earlier in the year.

But the decline in booze consumption isn’t only about people becoming more work-driven. There have never been more alternate ways to be entertained than resorting to the bottle. The rise of digital TV, BBC iPlayer and Netflix means most people means that most people have almost limitless choice about what to watch.

Some social lives have also partly migrated online. In many ways this is an unfortunate development, but one upshot has been to reduce alcohol intake. “You don’t need to drink to hang out online,” says Dr James Nicholls, the author of The Politics of Alcohol who now works for Alcohol Concern. 

The sheer cost of boozing also puts people off. Although minimum pricing on booze has not been introduced, a series of taxes have made alcohol more expensive, while a ban on below-cost selling was introduced last year. Across the 28 countries of the EU, only Ireland has higher alcohol and tobacco prices than the UK today; in 1998 prices in the UK were only the fourth most expensive in the EU.

Immigration has also contributed to weaning Britain off booze. The decrease in alcohol consumption “is linked partly to demographic trends: the fall is largest in areas with greater ethnic diversity,” Nicholls says. A third of adults in London, where 37 per cent of the population is foreign born, do not drink alcohol at all, easily the highest of any region in Britain.

The alcohol industry is nothing if not resilient. “By lobbying for lower duty rates, ramping up their marketing and developing new products the big producers are doing their best to make sure the last ten years turn out to be a blip rather than a long term change in culture,” Nicholls says.

But whatever alcohol companies do to fight back against the declining popularity of booze, deep changes in British culture have made booze less attractive. Forget the horrific tales of drunken escapades from Magaluf to the Bullingdon Club. The real story is of the strange death of boozy Britain. 

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.