Help on energy bills must not come at cost of climate action, Sunak warned

Rishi Sunak has been warned not to allow the Tory right to use the cost-of-living crisis as cover for rolling back the UK’s climate change ambitions.

The Chancellor is coming under intense pressure from Conservative MPs to scrap or suspend green levies on energy bills to cushion the impact on customers of price rises expected to reach £600-£700 per household this spring.

But the Tory MP who signed zero-carbon targets into law as energy minister, Chris Skidmore, warned that abandoning the levies would be “disastrous for the transition away from fossil fuels”.

And environmental groups told The Independent that protection for disadvantaged groups must not come at the cost of measures designed to help wean the UK off greenhouse gas-emitting energy sources.

Green energy boss Dale Vince, of renewable power company Ecotricity, said the levies should be replaced by a windfall tax on North Sea gas producers, who he said had benefited from “excess profits” totalling £20bn as wholesale prices soared this winter.

Labour’s climate change spokesperson Ed Miliband told The Independent: “The cause of energy prices soaring is not our country’s environmental commitments, but a deeply incompetent government with a failed energy policy.

“We need action now to help families horrified at the prospect of rocketing bills. And the best way of keeping bills down in the long term is to move further and faster to reliable, zero-carbon power, and a national mission to improve energy efficiency.”

And Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Dr Doug Parr, warned: “If the UK government caves in to calls for green levies to be suspended or scrapped altogether, it would, at a stroke, undermine its long-standing promises and deal a blow both to its credibility with private investors and to UK climate leadership at the same time.”

Instead, the government should “double-down on renewables, warmer homes, and upgrading our energy systems” as the best route to affordable and reliable energy. he said.

Global warming sceptics in the Net Zero Scrutiny group of Tory backbenchers have been pressing hard for the removal of levies which make up around 12 per cent (or £195 a year) of the average home’s combined gas and electricity bill. The cash funds a variety of initiatives to boost renewable alternatives and improve energy efficiency.

They warn that increases to the £140 Warm Home Discount being considered by Mr Sunak to help the poorest households do not go far enough to save millions from a painful cost-of-living crunch at the same time as a 1.25 per cent hike in National Insurance contributions.

Treasury sources confirmed the Chancellor is working with regulators and suppliers to “explore potential mitigations” to protect consumers, but declined to say which option he favours.

Asked if Boris Johnson would rule out suspending or scrapping green levies, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “Our exposure to volatile global gas prices underscores the importance of our plan to build homegrown renewable energy to further reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It remains our position that we think it’s right that we continue to invest in this, which ultimately brings down the cost of renewable energy sources while supporting the lowest income families and the most vulnerable in our society.”

Net Zero Scrutiny chair Craig Mackinlay told The Independent: “A lot of people will get pushed into fuel poverty unless the government acts. People are looking at that choice between heating or eating.”

And senior backbencher Robert Halfon said: “I’m not a climate Luddite. But we are also in extraordinary circumstances. There are other ways to support renewable energy. The government knows it has to do something. They can’t stand by and let people struggle.”

But Mr Skidmore warned cutting the levies would hit jobs in Red Wall seats supported by green subsidies and breach contractual obligations.

“The likelihood of this being abandoned or scrapped would not only be disastrous for the government’s transition away from fossil fuels, it would also be illegal,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said that the Tory MPs’ attack on environmental levies was “simply a cover for their real agenda – opposition to any government policies in support of the transition to net zero”.

Ms Lucas said that the current crisis was a consequence of “years of mismanagement and short-sightedness by Tory-led governments” which had failed to move faster on decarbonisation since David Cameron famously said he wanted to “get rid of all the green crap” from energy bills in 2013.

She backed a windfall tax on North Sea operators to fund a massive programme of home insulation to cut energy bills, and said she would support a shift in green levies in the longer term away from electricity – more than a quarter of which comes from renewable sources – and onto general taxation. Dr Parr too said that a move to general taxation would ease the burden on families struggling with bills this winter.

Jamie Peters, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth, told The Independent: “The UK government is still offering tax breaks to climate-wrecking fossil fuel companies. Any green levies on energy bills must go hand-in-hand with proper taxes on fossil fuel companies, and the UK government must make sure that these giant multinational companies who can afford to pay their taxes, do.

“We must keep moving on climate action, but equally the path to net-zero must not leave anyone behind.”

Mr Vince said that the energy sector was unique in having taxes imposed directly on it to fund government social and environmental programmes, at a cost of £6bn a year to consumers on top of the £3bn they pay in VAT on heating.

“We don’t have a price cap in food, we don’t put VAT on food and we don’t add the cost of farming support to food bills – but food poverty is a far bigger issue in our country, affecting millions more people than energy poverty,” he said.

“Government needs to take a consistent approach and if they truly care about energy bills being too high, then remove government tax at least. End energy bill hypocrisy – talking of their concern for the affordability of energy while at the same time making it less affordable.”

He called for a windfall tax on excess North Sea profits, which he said were “unexpected and unneeded” by producers this winter.

“It makes sense to move this money around, rather than burden energy users with a massive price hike, while North Sea operators make a killing,” he said.

Barnaby Wharton of trade body RenewableUK said: “Wind and solar are the UK’s cheapest sources of new power bar none, so they offer the best value for money for consumers who are being hit hard by rocketing international gas prices.

“Getting more renewables onto the system, including green hydrogen and more energy storage, will protect consumers against the eye-watering fossil fuel price shocks which are currently pushing bills up.

“Any calls to stop investing in our green future are short-sighted and misguided, as the UK has everything to gain by accelerating the transition to renewables”.


UK to seek extra 4 billion pounds from builders over flammable cladding – BBC

Grenfell tower is seen shrouded by scaffolding and covers two years after the tower fire in London

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government will seek an extra 4 billion pounds ($5.4 billion) from property developers to fund repairs to dangerous apartment blocks, in the wake of a fire that killed more than 70 people in 2017, the BBC reported.

The deadly blaze at Grenfell Tower, a 23-storey social housing block in west London, revealed the widespread use of flammable cladding on apartment blocks across the country, requiring expensive removal or round-the-clock fire watches.

The government has committed around 5 billion pounds for repairs so far, and last year imposed a levy on housebuilders to raise 2 billion pounds towards the cost over the next 10 years.

The BBC published government correspondence late on Friday showing that ministers would seek a further 4 billion pounds from developers to fund repairs to a wider range of apartment blocks and reduce costs for the apartments’ leaseholders.

“You may use a high-level ‘threat’ of tax or legal solutions in discussions with developers as a means to obtaining voluntary contributions from them,” Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, wrote to Michael Gove, secretary of state for housing.

The money would be used to provide government grants to fund repairs for blocks with a height of at least 11 metres (36 ft). Previously only government loans had been available for blocks that were less than 18.5 metres high.

However, Clarke told Gove that if the property developers would not pay up, he would have to find the money from the existing housing budget.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities had no immediate comment.

Legal liability for the repairs is disputed, and in practice the leaseholders of individual apartments have often faced bills for tens of thousands of pounds each for repairs from the owners of the apartment blocks.

Developers who have had to pay out to replace cladding include Barratt and Persimmon.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Pravin Char)

Ministers urged to go further to help leaseholders with cladding costs

Sam Blewett, PA Deputy Political EditorSat, 8 January 2022, 10:39 am

Ministers have been urged to go further in helping flat owners remove dangerous cladding after plans emerged to pressure developers to cover works costing up to £4 billion.

In an apparent climbdown, Housing Secretary Michael Gove is expected to announce that leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall will no longer have to take out loans to cover the costs.

Instead, a Treasury letter reported by BBC Newsnight suggests he will threaten tax or legislation to pressure developers to cover the costs facing leaseholders, with no more money coming from the Government.

Fire service personnel survey the damage to Grenfell Tower
Fire service personnel survey the damage to Grenfell Tower (Rick Findler/PA)

Only leaseholders in buildings taller than 18 metres can currently access grants to replace unsafe cladding under measures introduced in England after the Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people in 2017.

The letter from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke to Mr Gove said loans for smaller buildings would be replaced by a “limited grant scheme”.

“You may use a high-level ‘threat’ of tax or legal solutions in discussions with developers as a means to obtaining voluntary contributions from them,” it read.

“I am pleased to see that you acknowledge the principle that the taxpayer should not be on the hook for further costs of remediation. To reiterate, my approval of this new package for 11-18m buildings is therefore conditional on no further Exchequer funding.”

Senior Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley, who co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform, urged the Government to go further.

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley (House of Commons/PA)

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “From what we’re hearing, progress is being made – it’s not enough.”

Sir Peter said “we need to get the money, spend it properly, and we need to overcome the hurdle” of indemnity funding so landlords can make claims from developers and manufacturers.

He said the Government must tell insurance companies to “come to the table with, say, £8 billion and then innocent leaseholders will live in homes which are safe and saleable”.

Labour’s shadow housing minister Matthew Pennycook said: “Any new measures that help resolve the building safety crisis are welcome, but on the face of it these appear far less significant than they sound.

“Nothing on non-cladding defects, no new developer levy and the position on leaseholder liability unchanged. We await further detail.”

A spokesman for the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign said the “devil is in the detail”, with the letter saying the measures do not “extend to non-cladding” costs.

“It’s a welcome step in the right direction but there’s still a long road to travel,” he said.

“It’s not definite still if we are getting to the destination we want to get to but we are cautiously optimistic.”

The BBC and the Daily Telegraph reported that an announcement on the measures is expected on Monday.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Innocent leaseholders are still facing eye-watering bills to fix non-cladding fire safety defects, not of their making, and more defects may be discovered once cladding starts to come off.

“Anything short of putting new laws in place to make the developers pay for their shoddy and dangerous house-building is a betrayal of innocent leaseholders whose lives have been put on hold for four years already.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman did not dispute the contents of the leaked letter, but added: “We will not comment on speculation.”

Channel 5 boss dismisses Government calls for more ‘distinctively British’ TV

Nina Lloyd, PASat, 8 January 2022, 11:11 am

Chanel 5’s head of programming has rejected calls from ministers for more “distinctively British” TV shows, arguing the channel’s schedule is “not Government-led” and embraces a wide range of viewers.

Ben Frow questioned plans to make it a legal requirement for public broadcasters to preserve programmes that “could only have been made in the United Kingdom”.

He told The Times: “I don’t really know what the Government meant. My job is to look at the schedule, make sure there’s a nice variety and try to second guess the audience.

“I am viewer-led, I am not Government-led when it comes to creative ideas.”

He said Channel 5 has a record of producing shows that reflect British values, such as Our Yorkshire Farm and Coastal Devon & Cornwall With Michael Portillo.

The Government proposals, announced by then media minister John Whittingdale in September, have been criticised by actor David Tennant, who suggested they were an attempt to push for more politically favourable programming.

John Whittingdale
John Whittingdale (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Pointing to high viewing figures from different areas across the UK, including Yorkshire, the Midlands and Scotland, Mr Frow said Channel 5 is “of the people, for the people”.

“We’re not highfalutin, we’re not snooty, we don’t look down on our audience, we’re not patronising,” he said.

Mr Frow said other channels including the BBC and Channel 4 had started trying to target younger audiences, but his strategy is to appeal to “as many people as possible”.

It comes after ministers backed calls for God Save The Queen to be played more frequently by the BBC and other public broadcasters.

Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, told the Commons that airing the national anthem would provide a “great sense of unity and pride”, and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries described the suggestion as “fantastic”.

As the Government considers plans to sell Channel 4, with Channel 5’s owner Viacom tipped as a potential buyer, Mr Frow welcomed the possibility of another creative opportunity.

He said: “It wouldn’t be for me to decide about buying Channel 4… that said, I like any opportunity to be more creative.”

‘Finally living her best life’: Fans praise a ‘happy’ and ‘free’ Britney Spears in new photos

Ellie SpinaTue, 4 January 2022, 4:33 pm

Britney spears looks
Britney spears looks “happy” in new photos. (Image via Getty Images/Instagram/BritneySpears)

Britney Spears is living her best life.

The 40-year-old kicked off 2022 by sharing a set of candid photos for her more than 38 million Instagram followers. In the photos, the “Toxic” singer is seen smiling on an electric motorcycle, wearing a pair of leggy, pink shorts and a white cropped hoodie. Her dog, Porsche, is also pictured. To view this content, you’ll need to update your privacy settings.Please click here to do so.

The laid back set of photos struck a chord with fans, who called her latest post the “happiest she has looked in decades.”

“Your true smile is back again!” one fan wrote. “She’s finally living her best life.”

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Click here to sign up for Yahoo Canada’s lifestyle newsletter.

“Am I the only one, or this is just so much fun to see her living life,” someone else commented.

“I love seeing her this happy again,” a follower wrote, while another added, “You are glowing and we are here for it. You look so happy!”

Britney Spears recently unfollowed her sister, Jamie-Lynn Spears online. (Image via Getty Images)
Britney Spears recently unfollowed her sister, Jamie Lynn Spears online. (Image via Getty Images)

Many of Spears’s fans attributed her happiness to her recent legal victory that ended a 13-year conservatorship that limited her personal and financial autonomy. 

“You can really tell that she has waited so long to be this happy and free again,” one fan said. “I love to see her finally enjoying herself again and telling her toxic family members to F-off.”

Spears’s latest post comes just after unfollowing her sister, Jamie Lynn, on social media, amid rumours that their relationship met an impasse.

Before the termination of her highly controversial conservatorship in November, Spears called out her younger sister via Instagram for hurting her “deeply.”

 “I don’t like that my sister showed up at an awards show and performed my songs to remixes! My so-called support system hurt me deeply!” Spears wrote in July. 

Jason Alexander: Britney Spears’ ex-husband arrested for allegedly violating restraining order

Jason Alexander: Britney Spears’ ex-husband arrested for allegedly violating restraining order

Kevin E G PerryTue, 4 January 2022, 9:16 pm

Jason Alexander, the ex-husband of pop icon Britney Spears, has been arrested for allegedly violating a restraining order.

According to reports in Us Weekly, the 40-year-old is being held at Williamson County Jail in Franklin, Tennessee. He was charged with a violation of an order of protection as well as aggravated stalking, and his bond has been set at $30,000.

A spokesperson for the Franklin Police Department told Us Weekly that a court hearing has been scheduled for 17 February.

This time last year, Alexander shared a selfie he’d taken in Washington DC attending the Save America rally which protested Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election . In the picture he’s wearing a red Trump beanie with a “45” on it while a Trump 2020 flag flies overhead.

Alexander, who is a childhood friend of Spears, was famously married to the pop star for just 55 hours in 2004.

The pair exchanged vows at the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas following a long night of partying, and their short-lived union was annulled a couple of days later.

After her brief marriage to Alexander, Spears went on to wed aspiring musician Kevin Federline on 18 September 2004. Spears filed for divorce in 2007, citing irreconcilable differences. They have two sons, Preston Federline, 16, and Jayden James, 15.

Since 2016, Spears has been dating actor, model and personal trainer Sam Asghari. The couple announced their engagement in September 2021.

Britney Spears enjoys first glass of red wine in 13 years after conservatorship ends

Julia Hunt

Julia Hunt·ContributorThu, 6 January 2022, 12:56 pm

Britney Spears has revealed she enjoyed her first glass of red wine in 13 years following the end of her conservatorship.

The pop princess’s conservatorship was finally wrapped up in late 2021, 13 years after it was set up and amid a huge fan campaign to “#freebritney”.

In recent weeks, the US chart-topper has been opening up to her followers on social media about what her life has been like since them.

Read more: Britney Spears teases new music as she says she will be her own ‘cheerleader’

After sharing a video showing her dancing to a Madonna song, she posted a picture of flowers and wrote on Instagram: “I’m sure it looks weird me dancing to @madonna so much… I see it… it’s like I’m not trying as much like I’m INDULGING… well that’s exactly what her music does to me!!!

“I mean I had my first glass of red wine last weekend!!! I’ve waited 13 years… that’s long enough!!!”

The star's conservatorship ended last year. (Getty)
The star’s conservatorship ended last year. (Getty)

Apparently referring to some comments she had received online, the singer went on: “The sarcasm of me me me… my family taught me well by their actions… to be selfish and love thyself… play on!!! 

“In a world where we all have the right to speak… drive… buy alcohol… party… have cash… I apologise for INDULGING in front of the masses… and dancing a touch slower!!! I mean what was I thinking?? 

“Nobody’s perfect!!!”

Mum-of-two Spears’ conservatorship was set up in 2008 and she has called it “demoralising and degrading”.

The ‘Toxic’ singer, who turned 40 in December, was officially freed from the guardianship in November last year

Woman dumbfounded by seating arrangement at her brother’s wedding ceremony: ‘I looked at him in disbelief’

A woman is furious that her brother won’t disinvite her ex from his wedding

She shared what happened on Reddit’s “Am I the A******? (AITA)” forum. The woman recently discovered her husband was cheating on her with a friend. She also learned that all of her friends were helping her husband cover up the infidelity. After filing for divorce, she asked her brother to disinvite the ex from his upcoming wedding. But her brother refused. 

“My brother is getting married in a month,” she explained. “My brother is not friends with my friends, but he knows them by association and gets along with them, and he’s invited them to his wedding. My soon-to-be ex is also invited.”

“My husband and I have known each other since high school, and we shared the same friend group. His friends are my friends and vice versa.

Mj Rodriguez and Chella Man hang out behind the scenes of In The Know’s digital cover shoot

Recently I found out my husband has been cheating on me for four months with another woman, and all of our friends have been covering for him. They all knew and enabled him. I immediately filed for divorce.”

Her family seemed supportive at first, but she couldn’t believe what her brother did next. 

“Yesterday, the topic of my brother’s wedding came up, and he was talking about the seating arrangements with me and my parents,” she said. “He asked me if I would be comfortable to be seated next to my husband and our friends. I looked at him in disbelief and told him he shouldn’t even be asking that question.” 

“I’m also upset that he’s inviting them after all, especially my friends since they’re not his friends at all, and he just knows them by association. He said it would be mean if he uninvited all of them. I reminded him how my husband cheated on me, and I got lied [to] by all my friends who were enabling him. He says he’s aware, but I should not insist on him uninviting them because it’s his wedding, and he makes the rules.”

People felt the brother made the wrong choice on this one. 

“If your brother is choosing people he isn’t even friends with over you, then it proves what a terrible brother he is,” a user said

“Your brother needs to readjust his priorities,” another commented

“He’s being incredibly self-absorbed and careless,” someone wrote

‘Dancing on Ice’ returning after most chaotic series in show’s history

Katie Archer·TV ReporterThu, 6 January 2022, 4:10 pm

From Lifted Entertainment

Dancing on Ice: SR14 on ITV and ITV Hub

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‘Dancing On Ice’ is back for 2022. (ITV)

Dancing On Ice is set to make a return a year on from the most disastrous series in its history.

The 2022 series will begin on ITV on Sunday, 16 January, following last year’s chaotic run which was plagued by illness, injury and scandal.

Read more: The most searched TV shows of 2021 revealed

It was even forced to cut its run from 10 weeks down to eight thanks to the number of drop outs – we take a look back at the biggest issues the show faced.

Injured skaters

Denise Van Outen was the first celebrity out due to injury. (ITV)
Denise Van Outen was the first celebrity out due to injury. (ITV)

By its nature, Dancing On Ice usually includes a few cast injuries as the amateur skaters try their best to impress with daring moves.

However, the 2021 series included some particularly nasty accidents, with Denise Van Outen the first celebrity in the cast to fall victim to injury when she broke three bones in her shoulder and partially dislocated it, leaving her still in physio months later.

Read more: Brendan Cole in A&E with concussion after Dancing On Ice fall

Van Outen tried her best to soldier on, but only managed one live performance before having to quit.

She was swiftly followed by Billie Shepherd, who took part in the first two weeks before suffering a concussion in training.

Jason Donovan was the last celebrity to have to drop out. (ITV)
Jason Donovan was the last celebrity to have to drop out. (ITV)

Jason Donovan lasted slightly longer, but became the fifth celebrity to withdraw from the contest after four weeks on air because of an old back injury that had been made worse by training.

The celebrities weren’t the only ones wounded – pro skater Yebin Mok was originally partnered with Graham Bell, but had to drop out before the series began when he accidentally stabbed her in the leg with his skate during training, leaving her needing surgery.

Pro skater Hamish Gaman, who had partnered Faye Brookes, also had to quit over a finger injury.

COVID-hit cast

Rufus Hound. Dancing On Ice 2021 (ITV)
Rufus Hound had looked like a promising skater. (ITV)

As well as the three injured celebrities, two more had to drop out after testing positive for COVID.

The first was Rufus Hound, who had been touted as Dancing On Ice‘s answer to Strictly Come Dancing winner Bill Bailey when he did unexpectedly well in the first show and won a golden ticket through to the next round – but never reappeared on the rink, thanks to his COVID diagnosis.

Following him after week three was Joe-Warren Plant, another promising contestant, whose time on the ice was cut short by coronavirus.

Scheduling changes

Editorial use only

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Frost/ITV/Shutterstock (11795927gy)

Sonny Jay and Angela Egan celebrate being crowned Dancing on Ice champions 2021 by Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield

'Dancing On Ice' TV show, Series 13, Episode 8, Final, Hertfordshire, UK - 14 Mar 2021
Sonny Jay was the eventual series winner. (ITV/Matt Frost)

Losing five celebrities from the cast was a show record and although two reserve contestants were waiting in the wings to step in, their time competing was shortlived.

Amy Tinkler had three weeks in the show, but Matt Richardson only managed one live show before he was voted out.

Read more: Who’s taking part in Dancing On Ice 2022?

With celebrities continuing to get ill and injured, and no more reserves to call on, bosses had no choice but to take a week’s break mid-series, airing a pre-recorded show of the most memorable Dancing On Ice moments ever instead (which itself proved controversial when former contestant and Hollyoaks actor Chris Fountain complained that many of his best routines had been overlooked).

The series then had to end a week earlier than planned, limping towards the final with Sonny Jay eventually taking the crown in an anti-climax of a grand final.

Cast controversies

John Barrowman will not return to judge 'Dancing On Ice'. (Getty Images)
John Barrowman will not return to judge ‘Dancing On Ice’. (Getty Images)

Rufus Hound might only have appeared in one live show, but he managed to make his mark by sparking Ofcom complaints over his remarks on being the surprise winner of the golden ticket through to the next round.

Making reference to the Government reversing its decision not to extend the free school meals voucher scheme into the summer holidays after pressure from a campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford, he said: “I’ve spent most of this year not being emotionally stable because the world stopped making sense and this does not make more sense of it. Thank you, I don’t know what is happening.

“We live in a world where the people we elect don’t want to feed hungry children, this is the least mad thing that has happened to me in a long time.”

Read more: Oti Mabuse confirmed as Dancing On Ice judge

But the controversies rumbled on even after the series ended when judge John Barrowman was caught up in a historic sexual harassment scandal.

After Noel Clarke was accused of sexual harassment by more than 20 women, an old interview of Clarke talking about Barrowman having regularly exposed himself to cast and crew on the set of Torchwood surfaced.

Barrowman has since claimed that his “silly behaviour” was not sexual harassment, but is not returning to judge this year, with Strictly pro dancer Oti Mabuse taking his place instead.

Dancing On Ice 2022 will begin on ITV on Sunday, 16 January at 6.30pm.

‘We weren’t allowed feminism – we had the Spice Girls’: the two comics unpicking ladette culture

Rachael HealyThu, 6 January 2022, 2:00 pm

When Shaparak Khorsandi’s teenage son recently discovered 90s music – the Shamen’s Ebeneezer Good, Pulp and more – he had questions for her. What did Jarvis Cocker mean when he sang “I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere, somewhere in a field in Hampshire?” Were they singing about ecstasy? Did she go raving, too?

Khorsandi was in her teens and 20s in the 1990s, and being swept along in ladette culture. Used by the lads’ mag FHM as early as 1994, “ladette” came to describe bolshie women who could out-party and out-gross any hardened lad. Sara Cox, Denise van Outen and Zoe Ball were the media favourites: often pictured binge-drinking and out on the town. Ladettes went hand-in-hand with 90s lad culture, where Britpop, banter and sport collided in a blizzard of hedonism. These “new lads”, posited one researcher, were retreating into a more simplistic masculinity in response to the Spice Girls’ concept of Girl Power; and middle-class boys were co-opting the dress and behaviours of working-class men.

Writing her latest show, It Was the 90s!, for the Edinburgh fringe last summer, Khorsandi reflected on the decade. “We’ve glossed over ladette culture a bit; it’s been fun to revisit it,” she says. “It was initially meant to be a feminist action. We thought we were taking power back by making ourselves very ill with booze and selling ourselves short when we went out. The men do it, so should we! But what we didn’t have, which my son’s generation has, was the notion of self-care.”

Shappi Khorsandi at St Mungo’s No Laughing Matter, 2019.
Shappi Khorsandi at St Mungo’s No Laughing Matter, 2019. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

It Was the 90s! delves into Khorsandi’s time as a ladette and how attitudes have changed. What do we dismiss under the guise of nostalgia? Was the pressure to go out every night, drink until you were sick, and separate sex from emotions really as good as she thought at the time? Khorsandi explores it all. “The way I deal with bad times is to make them funny and this is the most fun show I’ve done,” she says. “This is an honest conversation between 23-year-old me and 48-year-old me.”

Khorsandi started out in comedy in the 90s. “Standup then was the closest thing I had to punk. We just drank until some kind of career happened or you died. There were no other women that I worked with, and it was all about being as hard and as gross as you could.”

Esther Manito has also been looking back on 90s ladette culture in her show #NotAllMen, which won the Leicester comedy festival’s best show award in 2021. She comes on stage to Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and opens with: “Do we have any violent misogynists in?” Growing up, Manito would spend summer holidays in Beirut. Friends would ask: was it safe? In reality, her happy experiences in Lebanon stood in stark contrast to simply walking home from school in Essex, where she faced catcalls almost daily. The female empowerment she was fed through pop culture back then was incredibly lacking. “We weren’t allowed feminism in the 90s,” Manito jokes in her show. “We had the Spice Girls.”

During the pandemic, living with her Lebanese father, British husband and son, Manito began to explore masculinity and how its expectations can damage men. She spoke to old school friends about the way lockdown pushed many couples into stereotypical gender roles. One friend found a list Manito had written as a teenager, detailing the qualities of her dream boyfriend, including: “Must not touch me with the light on.”

“That projection of what a woman’s body was through lads’ magazines meant I was really self-conscious,” Manito says. She had grown up in a progressive, feminist household, so the pressure to conform felt doubly bad. “I thought: I’m not this hairless, skinny, big-titted, oiled-up figure, and I don’t want to be.”

She recalls a column where Zoo magazine’s agony uncle Danny Dyer suggested a man who’d split with his girlfriend should “cut your ex’s face” so no one else would date her. (He later claimed he was misquoted.) Such flagrant misogyny, she thought, must affect how boys and men interacted with women. “Looking at my husband and others, I think it took them a really long time to be able to have relationships with women that weren’t sexual,” she says. While some of this was “shocking” to look back on, “you find humour in the bizarre”, she says.

Esther Manito performs at the Boots Staydry Women Take The P**s, 2020.
Esther Manito performs at the Boots Staydry Women Take The P**s, 2020. Photograph: Lia Toby/Getty Images

Both Manito and Khorsandi recall being labelled “shouty” or “fiery” after voicing their opinions. Khorsandi “cultivated a posh accent” because she was made to feel like “I couldn’t be brown and working class”. She shortened her name to Shappi because “I was so ashamed every time anyone said ‘Shaparak’ out loud because there’d be titters of laughter.” This is the first full tour she’s performing as Shaparak.Khorsandi received an ADHD diagnosis earlier this year – another prompt for reflection. Was it partly her undiagnosed ADHD that drew her into ladette behaviour? “Looking back, the booze medicated my ADHD,” she says. “I think not understanding about self-care and neurodivergence played into the 90s binge-drinking culture.”

Looking back has made them both appreciate where society is today. “I definitely don’t feel nostalgia for the 90s!” Manito says.

“I don’t want to be stuck in my youth,” says Khorsandi. “I’ve watched how things have changed my standup and values have changed. Comedy is part of culture – it all moves forward.”

Both women have noticed a refreshing acceptance among their children’s generation. “There’s no othering,” Manito says. “I’ve never heard my boy say: ‘Girls can’t do that’, something I always heard growing up. I think my kids will face fewer hurdles when it comes to creating connections with people.”

“The tolerance they have for one another is astounding,” Khorsandi agrees. “It doesn’t occur to my son’s generation to be negative about someone who is transitioning or non-binary. I had to explain to my children that ginger people used to get teased at school. They looked at me like: ‘Are you mad?!’ Things have really changed.”

Shaparak Khorsandi’s It Was the 90s! tour resumes 21 January at Otley Courthouse; Esther Manito is at the Beck theatre, Hayes, Friday 7 January, and performs #NotAllMen at the Glee Club, Birmingham, 22 April

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