The Miliband strategy, with a better striker? Photo: Getty Images
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We're beginning to see the outlines of the Labour leadership race

Both Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall have reasons to be cheerful after the GMB hustings.

The race is still open, but we’re beginning to understand the candidates a little better at least.

The hustings in front of the parliamentary Labour party didn’t do much to shake up the three-way race between Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, but it did ensure that it won’t become a four-way. Those left-leaning MPs who could switch from Burnham’s camp to put Jeremy Corbyn left the Attlee Suite feeling more confident in their choice – Burnham’s line that the party had to be careful “not to distance ourselves from the last five years” was approvingly cited by some – which means that there is only a small chance that Corbyn will get the numbers he needs to get past the nomination stage.

Mary Creagh, too, is unlikely to get the numbers. It’s not in the interest of the Kendall campaign to have another candidate with an near-identikit message in the race and it’s not in the interests of the Cooper campaign to have another woman on  the ballot paper.

So what do we know about the candidates who will make it? Burnham seems to have abandoned anything beyond a tonal shift from the Miliband leadership, describing the 2015 manifesto as “the best manifesto that I have stood on in four general elections”.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, of course, depends on your perspective. One Burnham supporter, approvingly, told me that the shadow health secretary offers “the same gameplan, but with a better striker”, while one MP from the Cooper camp refers to him as “a Scouse Ed Miliband”. Who’s right? It comes down to the big argument of the leadership election: was it Miliband’s personality, or his programme, that turned off voters?

Burnham is now firmly on the side of personality and tone. He sounds more reassuring than Miliband towards business, looks the part, but, policy-wise, he’s Miliband Mark Two, at least at present. That's better news for Team Burnham than it sounds: he is, far and away, the campaign's best assest and focussing on "Burnham the salesman" isn't a bad place for their campaign to be.

But it will also cheer the Kendall campaign, who will believe they can successfully persuade party members that a bigger change than the man at the top is needed to win. “Don’t forget that Labour members quite liked Ed,” one supporter points out, “I don’t think they’ll be as receptive as the media thinks to the ‘It was all Ed’s fault’ narrative.”

As for their candidate, this was another tricky away fixture after last Saturday’s hustings at the Fabian Society. That she didn’t leave with a flea in her ear shows that she can win, and she burnished her credentials as the most unambiguously pro-immigration candidate out of the three contenders, repeating her “Labour must offer a chance, not a grievance” one-liner. That may be enough of an offer to the party’s “soft left” for them to look over her policy heresies if they think that she’s the candidate best placed to win in 2020.

As for Cooper, her campaign still looks like it has a problem with definition. Her performances are getting better all the time but it’s still a struggle to complete the sentence “I’m voting for Yvette Cooper because...”. 

You can see the outlines of her support base – members who think it’s time for a woman but don’t want a candidate from the party’s right, activists who want Andy Burnham but are uneasy about his Blairite past – but both those groups are likely to be just as turned off by her hostile tone on immigration as they are by Kendall’s heresies and Burnham’s U-Turns.  If Cooper comes second, she ought to win on second preferences. But the real risk is that her core is simply, in her own words, “too narrow” – and instead of pulling off an astonishing victory, she comes a humiliating third place.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Harmful gender stereotypes in ads have real impact – so we're challenging them

The ASA must make sure future generations don't recoil at our commercials.

July’s been quite the month for gender in the news. From Jodie Whittaker’s casting in Doctor Who, to trains “so simple even women can drive them”, to how much the Beeb pays its female talent, gender issues have dominated. 

You might think it was an appropriate time for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to launch our own contribution to the debate, Depictions, Perceptions and Harm: a report on gender stereotypes in advertising, the result of more than a year’s careful scrutiny of the evidence base.

Our report makes the case that, while most ads (and the businesses behind them) are getting it right when it comes to avoiding damaging gender stereotypes, the evidence suggests that some could do with reigning it in a little. Specifically, it argues that some ads can contribute to real world harms in the way they portray gender roles and characteristics.

We’re not talking here about ads that show a woman doing the cleaning or a man the DIY. It would be most odd if advertisers couldn’t depict a woman doing the family shop or a man mowing the lawn. Ads cannot be divorced from reality.

What we’re talking about is ads that go significantly further by, for example, suggesting through their content and context that it’s a mum’s sole duty to tidy up after her family, who’ve just trashed the house. Or that an activity or career is inappropriate for a girl because it’s the preserve of men. Or that boys are not “proper” boys if they’re not strong and stoical. Or that men are hopeless at simple parental or household tasks because they’re, well...men.

Advertising is only a small contributor to gender stereotyping, but a contributor it is. And there’s ever greater recognition of the harms that can result from gender stereotyping. Put simply, gender stereotypes can lead us to have a narrower sense of ourselves – how we can behave, who we can be, the opportunities we can take, the decisions we can make. And they can lead other people to have a narrower sense of us too. 

That can affect individuals, whatever their gender. It can affect the economy: we have a shortage of engineers in this country, in part, says the UK’s National Academy of Engineering, because many women don’t see it as a career for them. And it can affect our society as a whole.

Many businesses get this already. A few weeks ago, UN Women and Unilever announced the global launch of Unstereotype Alliance, with some of the world’s biggest companies, including Proctor & Gamble, Mars, Diageo, Facebook and Google signing up. Advertising agencies like JWT and UM have very recently published their own research, further shining the spotlight on gender stereotyping in advertising. 

At the ASA, we see our UK work as a complement to an increasingly global response to the issue. And we’re doing it with broad support from the UK advertising industry: the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) – the industry bodies which author the UK Advertising Codes that we administer – have been very closely involved in our work and will now flesh out the standards we need to help advertisers stay on the right side of the line.

Needless to say, our report has attracted a fair amount of comment. And commentators have made some interesting and important arguments. Take my “ads cannot be divorced from reality” point above. Clearly we – the UK advertising regulator - must take into account the way things are, but what should we do if, for example, an ad is reflecting a part of society as it is now, but that part is not fair and equal? 

The ad might simply be mirroring the way things are, but at a time when many people in our society, including through public policy and equality laws, are trying to mould it into something different. If we reign in the more extreme examples, are we being social engineers? Or are we simply taking a small step in redressing the imbalance in a society where the drip, drip, drip of gender stereotyping over many years has, itself, been social engineering. And social engineering which, ironically, has left us with too few engineers.

Read more: Why new rules on gender stereotyping in ads benefit men, too

The report gave news outlets a chance to run plenty of well-known ads from yesteryear. Fairy Liquid, Shake 'n' Vac and some real “even a woman can open it”-type horrors from decades ago. For some, that was an opportunity to make the point that ads really were sexist back then, but everything’s fine on the gender stereotyping front today. That argument shows a real lack of imagination. 

History has not stopped. If we’re looking back at ads of 50 years ago and marvelling at how we thought they were OK back then, despite knowing they were products of their time, won’t our children and grandchildren be doing exactly the same thing in 50 years’ time? What “norms” now will seem antiquated and unpleasant in the future? We think the evidence points to some portrayals of gender roles and characteristics being precisely such norms, excused by some today on the basis that that’s just the way it is.

Our report signals that change is coming. CAP will now work on the standards so we can pin down the rules and official guidance. We don’t want to catch advertisers out, so we and CAP will work hard to provide as much advice and training as we can, so they can get their ads right in the first place. And from next year, we at the ASA will make sure those standards are followed, taking care that our regulation is balanced and wholly respectful of the public’s desire to continue to see creative ads that are relevant, entertaining and informative. 

You won’t see a sea-change in the ads that appear, but we hope to smooth some of the rougher edges. This is a small but important step in making sure modern society is better represented in ads.

Guy Parker is CEO of the ASA