World Pride in London in July 2012. Photo: Getty
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How to enjoy Gay Pride (if you’re straight)

Do drink slightly warm cider, dance in public and raise your voice in support of LGBT rights. Don’t dare each other to “go up to” drag queens.

Glitter supplies are running low, corporations have gone rainbow to hide their bastardism, religious nuts are upset: yay for Gay Pride season. In case you don’t know any LGBT people who have been in the throes of the annual “Do We Still Need Pride?” debate for the past fortnight, the London one is happening this weekend. Famously, any friends of The Gays are welcome. Now, straight people, I love you, but some of you need a bit of handholding when it comes to doing Pride. Here’s my guide to not ruining it for everyone:

Remember: you’re not on safari

Breeders, I hate to break this to you – Pride may well be this wacky, thongy hootenanny, but it doesn’t happen for your entertainment. Stop taking pictures of absolutely everything, like you’re some kind of cultural Kaspar Hauser who’s never seen a balloon. It isn’t, “ZOMFG random o’clock”, it’s probably just a body builder in a pineapple bra. Chill.

And stop daring each other to “go up to” drag queens.

Watch your fucking language

No, those aren’t “trannies”.

“But they’re blokes in resplendent evening gowns,” you protest, “They look like my auntie Brenda on her wedding day, if she’d been 6’5” and had hands like Le Creusets.”

Yes, and you look like Norman Tebbit’s podiatrist, but duller. I’m not going to make a thing of it though.

Remember folks, just because you once gave a lesbian directions to the nearest Boots, and were “totally cool” about it, you can’t use the word “dyke”. Even on special occasions.

Enjoy yourself

Aside from the inevitable rain, nothing puts a dampener on Pride quite like a group of straight people looking like George Galloway in a synagogue. Whatever’s happening, just go with it. How many times a year do you get to grind to Beyoncé with an oiled Adonis in a Miley Cyrus mask, in broad daylight?

Oh, and I’m allowed to look like I’m chewing a turd: I’m a lesbian.

Be supportive

Even LGBT people often forget that Pride is, at its root, political. Sure, it’s about drinking enough slightly warm cider to dance in public. But it also serves to remind people like you that the queer community has a voice, and that, in the words of Conchita Wurst, “We are unstoppable”. So please don’t be afraid to shout as loud as us, or louder even.

Don’t buy a penis balloon

Every year, vendors turn up to Pride with heaving fistfuls of dicks. I’m not sure who these people are, or why they think Pride is some kind of pagan fertility rite. Last year I saw one of them being arrested, so I’m guessing they’re not supposed to be there. But anyway, Pride isn’t your own, personal Saturnalia (well, maybe it is a little bit…) so please don’t meander though Soho, wielding a phallus on a stick like a disturbing lost child. If you absolutely have to wield something, just opt for a rainbow flag like everybody else.

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

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.