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A theatrical bust-up – but a deal is still the likely outcome of Brexit talks, writes JASON GROVES 

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a theatrical bust up but a deal is still the likely outcome of brexit talks writes jason groves

Brexit-watchers have long been waiting for the moment when trade talks with the EU would finally blow up into a full-scale row.

Students of international negotiations know that a theatrical bust-up is often the prelude to a deal.

Yesterday, the moment finally appeared to arrive. Boris Johnson recorded a statement to camera telling Britain to prepare to leave the Brexit transition with no trade deal at the end of this year.

Pictured: Boris Johnson gives a statement on post-Brexit trade talks on Friday, October 16. Johnson told Britain to prepare to leave the Brexit transition with no trade deal at the end of this year

Pictured: Boris Johnson gives a statement on post-Brexit trade talks on Friday, October 16. Johnson told Britain to prepare to leave the Brexit transition with no trade deal at the end of this year

With just ten weeks to go, the PM said, it was clear that the EU was not willing to grant the kind of free trade deal it has struck with Canada and other partners.

‘They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is obviously unacceptable to an independent country,’ he said.

Without a ‘fundamental change of approach’ from the EU, there was no point continuing negotiations.

An hour later, the PM’s official spokesman went further, saying trade talks were ‘over’. He said the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier should cancel a planned trip to London next week unless he plans to adopt a new approach.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen responded to Mr Johnson's comments by saying talks will still go ahead in London next week

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen responded to Mr Johnson’s comments by saying talks will still go ahead in London next week 

No 10 had been considering yesterday’s showdown long before this week’s crunch Brussels summit. In the event, the EU made it easy for them. EU leaders removed a pledge to ‘intensify’ talks from their summit conclusions and said it was for the UK to ‘make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible’.

French president Emmanuel Macron said there were ‘no circumstances’ in which he would compromise on fishing despite the fact that, as he conceded yesterday, a No Deal outcome would leave French trawlers completely out in the cold.

With posturing of this kind, the PM felt emboldened to go further than he might have done in ramping up the rhetoric.

So is it all theatrics? Only up to a point.

The European Union has consistently misread the mood in No 10, where Brexit is seen as a long-term project which cannot be blown off course by the demands of short-term deal-making.

Some European Union leaders still seem to think they are dealing with a tougher-talking version of Theresa May’s government, which never seriously contemplated walking away without a deal.

But the new administration in Downing Street is very different. Those at the heart of government will not accept constraints on the UK’s long-term ability to diverge from EU rules. They believe the ability for the UK to forge its own path is the whole point of Brexit.

Johnson said the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured) should cancel a planned trip to London next week unless he plans to adopt a new approach

Johnson said the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (pictured) should cancel a planned trip to London next week unless he plans to adopt a new approach

The Prime Minister wants a deal – and knows that leaving without one would be seen as failure.

Michael Gove, who is in charge of border preparations, is deeply concerned about the short-term disruption of leaving without a trade deal, which officials believe would disrupt vital supply chains and cause chaos in Kent.

And there are fears at the top of government that the collapse of talks would inevitably be acrimonious and spark a damaging trade war that could last for years.

So a deal is still possible – and still probably the most likely outcome.

But time is very tight. And both Brussels and the financial markets are under-pricing the real possibility that when the Prime Minister says he is ready to embrace No Deal, he might just mean it.

Boris calls of Brexit talks: PM says we must prepare for No Deal – because EU won’t budge 

By Jason Groves in London and James Franey in Brussels for the Daily Mail 

Britain should prepare for a No Deal Brexit, Boris Johnson warned yesterday as he called off talks on a trade agreement.

The Prime Minister said the EU’s ‘unacceptable’ demands meant there was no point continuing discussions.

And, with just ten weeks to go until the end of the Brexit transition, he said it was time for businesses and individuals to begin preparing for life without a trade deal, which will mean tariffs and possible border chaos in the short term.

Downing Street went further, with the Mr Johnson’s official spokesman saying trade talks were ‘over’.

No 10 told the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier last night not to bother travelling to London for talks next week, just hours after European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said efforts would be ‘intensified’.

Gove: Navy will help to protect our fishermen 

The Royal Navy will protect British waters in the days after the Brexit transition period, Michael Gove has warned.

Speaking on board the HMS Westminster in Portsmouth, he said sailors will help in any future conflicts over fishing waters and help make ‘sure no one is abusing their rights’. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also said the Army was on stand-by ‘ready to help’.

Mr Gove’s comments on Thursday came amid a row with the EU over access to UK fishing waters, with president Emmanuel Macron claiming French fisherman will not be ‘sacrificed’ to get a deal.

Mr Gove said: ‘There’s always been a role that the Navy play in fisheries protection and that role will continue. In the days after the transition period, the Royal Navy along with the Coastguard, the Department for Transport and others will continue to help with fisheries protection.’ 

This map shows the extent of the UK's Exclusive Economic Zone - the waters Britain will take back control of after Brexit. At the moment the EEZ of every EU member state is merged into one large zone which can be accessed by fishermen from all over Europe.

This map shows the extent of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters Britain will take back control of after Brexit. At the moment the EEZ of every EU member state is merged into one large zone which can be accessed by fishermen from all over Europe.

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A spokesman said there was ‘no point’ in discussions continuing next week unless the EU changes tack, although the Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator Lord Frost will speak to Mr Barnier by phone.

Mr Johnson left the door open to the resumption of talks in the coming days. But he said this would require a ‘fundamental change of approach’ from Brussels.

He said Britain should embrace the prospect of no trade deal ‘with high hearts and complete confidence’.

He added: ‘We will prosper mightily as an independent free-trading nation, controlling our own borders, our fisheries, and setting our own laws.’

Earlier Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested there was still ‘a deal to be done’.

Mr Raab said the differences between the two sides were now ‘very narrow’, with ‘only really two issues at stake’ – fishing rights and rules on state aid subsidies.

Mr Johnson’s comments followed an EU summit at which leaders dropped a pledge to ‘intensify’ talks and said it was up to the UK to ‘make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible’.

His spokesman said: ‘The trade talks are over. The EU have effectively ended them by saying that they do not want to change their negotiating position.’

Last night there were signs of compromise from some EU leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Brussels had to accept the UK’s right to diverge from EU rules in future, adding: ‘If we want to have an agreement, then both sides need to make a move toward each other.’

And French president Emmanuel Macron admitted for the first time that his country’s fishing fleet would be even worse off under No Deal.

However, an EU source close to the negotiations said: ‘If Mr Johnson wants the EU to completely change its position, it simply won’t happen.’

The prospect of No Deal sparked a backlash from business leaders.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said: ‘After four years of negotiations and so many hurdles crossed, this is no time to give up.’

And Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said leaving the EU without a deal would have a ‘devastating’ impact on the car industry, hitting the economy and jobs in every region of the UK.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said Mr Johnson’s words suggested ‘we are heading into very dangerous territory’, with No Deal likely to mean higher food prices.

Allie Renison, of the Institute of Directors, warned that preparing for No Deal amid a pandemic would be ‘a Herculean task for many businesses’. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Rishi Sunak’s new lockdown millions: Chancellor prepares rescue deal for companies

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rishi sunaks new lockdown millions chancellor prepares rescue deal for companies

Rishi Sunak will today launch a new rescue package to help firms hit by Covid restrictions retain their staff.

The Chancellor will update MPs this morning on a package of support set to cost hundreds of millions of pounds to help firms in sectors such as hospitality, which have been badly hit by new restrictions this month.

Ministers announced yesterday that South Yorkshire would be moved into the top Tier Three restrictions at the weekend. 

Talks to put Nottinghamshire into the ‘very high risk’ category are said to be close to completion.

With Merseyside and Lancashire already in Tier Three, and Greater Manchester set to go in just after midnight tonight, eight million people could be living under the toughest restrictions by the weekend.

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The Chancellor (pictured earlier this month) will update MPs this morning on a package of support set to cost hundreds of millions of pounds to help firms in sectors such as hospitality, which have been badly hit by new restrictions this month

The Chancellor (pictured earlier this month) will update MPs this morning on a package of support set to cost hundreds of millions of pounds to help firms in sectors such as hospitality, which have been badly hit by new restrictions this month

Ministers are also in talks with West Yorkshire about entering Tier Three. But the North East and Teesside were yesterday given a reprieve following a ‘slight’ decline in the Covid rate.

Firms forced to close in Tier Three, such as betting shops and soft play centres, can already furlough their workers on two-thirds of their wages.

But there has been an outcry from hospitality firms in Tier Two, whose business models have been wrecked by restrictions that mean people can no longer meet socially indoors.

Tier Two restrictions now cover many of the most heavily populated parts of the country, including London, Birmingham, York, Essex and the North East. 

Mr Sunak’s intervention is expected to cut the costs faced by employers wanting to keep workers on part-time.

The Chancellor was last night finalising plans to ‘tweak’ the existing Job Support Scheme, which offers help to employers who are able to keep staff on for at least a third of their hours.

Under the existing scheme, staff can have their wages topped up to 77 per cent of normal. 

Rishi Sunak and his chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay in the Commons on Wednesday

Rishi Sunak and his chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay in the Commons on Wednesday

The state and employer each fund 50 per cent of the cost of hours not worked. But critics have warned that the scheme gives too little incentive to firms to retain staff.

Mr Sunak is today expected to cut the cost of the employer’s contribution, with the state picking up more of the bill.

Treasury sources were tight-lipped about the precise details of the new scheme last night.

But any adjustment of the employer’s contribution is likely to mean a large bill for the taxpayer.

Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley MP and shadow cabinet minister, claimed ministers were 'treating the North with contempt'

Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley MP and shadow cabinet minister, claimed ministers were ‘treating the North with contempt’

The Treasury has modelled anything from two to five million people taking up the support at a cost of roughly £300million a month – a total cost of up to £9billion over six months.  

Downing Street yesterday hinted at the move, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying: ‘We do recognise that businesses operating in Tier Two will be facing difficulties because of reduced demand.’

South Yorkshire yesterday became the latest region to enter Tier Three after ministers agreed a funding package worth £41million. 

Sheffield City Region’s Labour mayor Dan Jarvis said: ‘The number of people with Covid in our hospitals has doubled over the last ten days, with no signs this will relent over the coming weeks. Inaction was not an option.’

Mr Jarvis appeared to take a swipe at Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who held out against a deal with ministers, saying South Yorkshire had ‘taken the responsible route to ensure we save lives and livelihoods, and protect our NHS’. 

He added: ‘I honestly don’t think I could have got any more money out of the Government.’

No holidays under Tier 3 lockdowns, Downing Street confirms 

Families living in Tier Three areas should not go on holiday this half-term, Downing Street has confirmed.

No 10 encouraged everyone in the high-risk areas to not plan a getaway as school holidays begin this weekend.

Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, asked the Government whether her constituents in South Yorkshire – which will be put into the ‘very high risk’ category on Saturday – would be able to get away.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘People should not travel outside the area except for a very short list of exemptions, such as for care or work purposes.’ 

He added that while this was not the law, it was clear in guidance.

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But other senior figures in the region called for more financial aid. Louise Haigh, Sheffield Heeley MP and shadow cabinet minister, claimed ministers were ‘treating the North with contempt’.

In South Yorkshire, case rates range from 285 people per 100,000 in Doncaster up to 402 people per 100,000 in Sheffield, officials said.

But Downing Street said talks on moving the North East and Teesside into Tier Three had been ‘paused’ following a decline in the Covid rate. 

There were 276.1 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in the North East for the week to October 16, down from 316.6 the previous week. 

Government sources played down reports that chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty is drawing up plans for a series of regional ‘circuit breakers’ next month, with even tighter restrictions.

÷Pubs and restaurants in much of Scotland will remain closed for another week, Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday.

The First Minister said restrictions introduced at the beginning of October – which were intended to last for two weeks – would continue for a third week. 

It follows the announcement that there have been 1,739 positive tests reported in the past 24 hours and 28 deaths.

Miss Sturgeon added that a new five-tiered system of regional restrictions for Scotland would be brought in on November 2. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Coronavirus pandemic must not be used as excuse to delay social care reform, Jeremy Hunt warns 

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coronavirus pandemic must not be used as excuse to delay social care reform jeremy hunt warns

Covid must not be used as an excuse to delay social care reform, a major report warns today.

More than a year after Boris Johnson promised to fix the broken system ‘once and for all’, the Health and Social Care Committee says action can no longer be put off.

Its damning analysis concludes the system perpetuates ‘profound unfairness’ – whereby many are forced to sell their homes to pay for support just because they are diagnosed with dementia, for example, rather than cancer.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is chairman of the committee, last night called on the Prime Minister to seize the chance to ‘right an injustice’.

Praising the Daily Mail’s long-running campaign on social care for shining a spotlight on the issue, Mr Hunt warned the Treasury not to be put off by the cost of reform.

Jeremy Hunt, who is chairman of the Health and Social Care committee, has tonight called on the Prime Minister to seize the chance to ¿right an injustice¿ and not let Covid get in the way

Jeremy Hunt, who is chairman of the Health and Social Care committee, has tonight called on the Prime Minister to seize the chance to ‘right an injustice’ and not let Covid get in the way

And he said acting now, after more than two decades of failure, would prove to Labour supporters that the Conservatives are the true party of health and social care.

Fixing the system would also be popular with the ‘Red Wall’ voters in the North, he said.

‘I think this is a perfect opportunity for the Government to show that it has got a big vision for the country that goes beyond Brexit and beyond picking up the pieces after the pandemic,’ Mr Hunt said. ‘I feel this is our moment.’

The committee’s report warns social care needs an addition £7billion a year as a ‘starting point’ to avoid collapse.

And it proposes a cap of £46,000 to the total costs each individual has to pay for care – which would cost around £3.1billion by 2023-24. Mr Hunt said the Chancellor must see past the cost alone.

The Mail has been campaigning for an urgent solution to the care scandal – particularly for those with dementia, who make up two thirds of those in care.

Experts and politicians from across the political spectrum have backed the campaign, calling for an end to a situation in which 21,000 people a year have to sell their homes to pay for care.

Mr Hunt praised the Mail which has been campaigning for an urgent solution to the care scandal ¿ particularly for those with dementia, who make up two thirds of those in care

Mr Hunt praised the Mail which has been campaigning for an urgent solution to the care scandal – particularly for those with dementia, who make up two thirds of those in care

Mr Hunt is concerned that a decision last night to delay a long-term spending review, with a mere one-year fiscal plan to be announced next month, means real reform will be put off until next year.

He added: ‘Of course the pandemic has cleaned out our national coffers, but many would be deeply concerned if the result was to kick the issue into the long grass yet again.’

Mr Johnson pledged on his first day in power last July to fix social care ‘once and for all’.

The Treasury is thought to be behind the delay – with the huge cost of solutions, combined with Covid costs, said to be slowing a sign-off.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We remain absolutely committed to ensuring everybody is treated with dignity, and nobody has to sell their home to pay for care.

‘We know there is a need for a long-term solution for social care and are looking at a range of proposals as part of our commitment to bringing forward a plan that puts the sector on a sustainable footing for the future.’

 ‘We can tackle this crisis…if the Treasury has the courage’

By Jeremy Hunt 

Chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee Jeremy Hunt

Chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee Jeremy Hunt

As the longest serving health secretary and the first ever health and social care secretary, I bear my share of responsibility for the state of our social care system.

For some time as health secretary I had realised that it would not be possible to address problems in the NHS unless we dealt with the challenges in social care.

Winter crises were being made worse because, quite simply, it was too hard to get a homecare package for discharge patients.

At the same time A & E departments were filling up because vulnerable people living on their own had only one choice if they got into difficulty: dial 999.

So I argued hard that we should not have a ten-year plan just for the NHS but one for the social care system as well.

That did not happen – not because of any lack of commitment from Theresa May – but because of events that overtook us and ultimately led to the fall of that government.

Now we have a chance to put that right.

Boris Johnson rightly said about social care reform, ‘We can do it, and we will do it.’

I would simply add: ‘We MUST do it.’

At our select committee, we heard from a doctor whose wife faced a bill of £52,000 per annum for his care home when he got dementia.

We heard from a 34-year-old woman with a neurological condition who because of her care package has to choose either to have a shower, or go shopping or meet a friend – but not all three.

We heard representatives of social care workers say how demotivating it was to be paid to care by the minute – should they use those minutes to wash someone or give them food? Certainly no time for a friendly cup of tea.

Britain is not just a civilised country, we are also a kind country. But this system is not kind to our most vulnerable citizens. We let them down –and often clean out a lifetime’s savings in the process.

Those problems were even more pronounced in the first wave of this year’s pandemic when care homes had to take in patients discharged from hospitals without knowing if they had Covid whilst also finding it impossible to get the PPE they needed.

In our report today, we are honest that the solution will be expensive – an additional £4billion a year by the end of the Parliament – just because of demographic change and National Living Wage increases.

Dealing with the catastrophic care costs often faced by those with dementia is another £3billion a year.

And then even more if we are to improve access to care and quality as we all would wish.

To which the obvious question is how, when the pandemic has emptied our national coffers, can we possibly afford to?

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt says he bears his share of the responsibility for the state of the social care system but insists it should now be treated as an equal service to the NHS

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt says he bears his share of the responsibility for the state of the social care system but insists it should now be treated as an equal service to the NHS

Some in the Treasury will be saying right now this is just too much money. But with determination and vision – which I believe Rishi Sunak has in spades – this can be solved.

In 1945 we were even more bankrupt, but the Attlee Labour government set up the NHS.

They did so with cross-party support following a White Paper published by the Conservative health minister Sir Henry Willink in 1944.

So now is the time for Conservatives again to show our commitment to the decency and humanity represented by the founding of the NHS.

If we are to treat the social care system not as a poor relation but an equal partner to the NHS, it needs a long-term funding settlement, a ten-year plan, a workforce plan, and security for ordinary people who have saved all their lives but end up having to cope with dementia or another neurological condition.

Let’s keep our promise to the British people that, whatever challenges we face, in this country every single older person will be treated with dignity and respect.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Why I’m going topless on TV: Despite two metal hips and a mastectomy Jennie Murray bares all

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why im going topless on tv despite two metal hips and a mastectomy jennie murray bares all

This week I found myself in a strangely assorted group of six well-known women, talking about how we plan to bare our breasts on national television.

We will do so while performing a striptease routine — on ice, no less. Gathered together for filming in a dance studio in Leicestershire were: me, a feminist who has long campaigned against women going topless in lads’ mags and on Page 3; Linda Lusardi, now an actor, formerly voted the best ever Page 3 girl; the singer, author and presenter Coleen Nolan; Hayley Tamaddon of Emmerdale; Dr Zoe Williams, the GP on This Morning; and Shaughna Phillips, best known for appearing on reality show Love Island.

What on earth has possessed us? Well, we’ve all signed up to an ITV series called The Real Full Monty On Ice. It is inspired by the original Full Monty film in which a group of unemployed men in Sheffield do a Chippendales act to earn some money.

Jenni Murray, pictured, is set to join six other famous faces who will be baring all on ITV's The Real Full Monty on Ice but reveals she was initially sceptical

Jenni Murray, pictured, is set to join six other famous faces who will be baring all on ITV’s The Real Full Monty on Ice but reveals she was initially sceptical

The TV version has the noble aim of promoting the importance of examining yourself for signs of breast cancer. It is a subject dear to my own heart, and to each of the others. Coleen lost her sister, Bernie, to the wretched disease and her siblings, Anne and Linda, are both dealing with advanced cancers.

Still, for all of us — even Linda Lusardi, who has done it lots of times before — the thought of baring our breasts makes us worried.

(You might, by the way, expect Linda and me to butt heads, given our very different views. In fact, we got on like a house on fire and she even told me she has come round to my way of thinking about lads’ mags. Win!)

Over and over I heard Coleen, who is leading a team of women in the series for the third time, saying how much she dreads that moment at the end of the show when she has to ‘get them out!’.

I know exactly how she feels.

You might also wonder how I was persuaded to sign up, given my well-known views on the exploitation of women.

It started when my agent, rather embarrassed, asked if I would be interested in taking part about a month ago.

Did I, in other words, want to bare my breasts (well, I’ve just the one, actually) to a huge live audience, together with millions more who would watch it all on telly over the Christmas period?

My initial reaction was perhaps predictable. No way! Not a chance! How dare she?

Joining her in the strip tease are actress Linda Lusardi, (pictured together) singer, author and presenter Coleen Nolan; Hayley Tamaddon of Emmerdale; Dr Zoe Williams, the GP on This Morning; and Shaughna Phillips, best known for appearing on reality show Love Island

Joining her in the strip tease are actress Linda Lusardi, (pictured together) singer, author and presenter Coleen Nolan; Hayley Tamaddon of Emmerdale; Dr Zoe Williams, the GP on This Morning; and Shaughna Phillips, best known for appearing on reality show Love Island

How, I demanded, could she assume I’d fall into such a clear patriarchal trap? I’ve always held there’s nothing empowering about women baring their bodies. Why did she assume I would abandon my principles?

But the truth is there was another reason for my protestations. Like so many women, I’ve never been truly comfortable in my own body.

Living as a teenager through the Twiggy era, I wanted so much to look like her but had the words of my slender mother ringing in my ears: ‘What a pity you inherited Dad’s bone structure rather than mine.’

I wasn’t fat in those days but I was a big girl. My legs were once described as ‘gladiatorial’. Not the best shape for a miniskirt.

My battles with my weight throughout the rest of my life are well known — I even wrote a book about it called Fat Cow, Fat Chance. Yes, I’ve been called a fat cow in the street on numerous occasions, and that was fully dressed.

So I have never dreamt of displaying the undressed evidence to anyone but my nearest and dearest, and even then I could never feel any pride in the way I looked.

I have spent half my adult life on some sort of diet — Atkins, Dukan, WeightWatchers, 5:2 —and, in the way these things tend to go for so many of us, I’ve lost a bit, relaxed a bit and put it all back on and more.

She reveals at first she protested greatly to being asked to join the show due to her views on the exploitation of women but admits another part of her was uncomfortable revealing her body to the world. Pictured, The Real Full Monty cast of 2018,left to right, backrow. Victoria Derbyshire, Sally Dexter,Ruth Madoc, Sarah-Jane Crawford and Megan McKenna and left to right front row Colleen Nolan, Michelle Heaton and Helen Ledere

She reveals at first she protested greatly to being asked to join the show due to her views on the exploitation of women but admits another part of her was uncomfortable revealing her body to the world. Pictured, The Real Full Monty cast of 2018,left to right, backrow. Victoria Derbyshire, Sally Dexter,Ruth Madoc, Sarah-Jane Crawford and Megan McKenna and left to right front row Colleen Nolan, Michelle Heaton and Helen Ledere

I finally succumbed to surgery in 2015 when I reached 24 stone, and lost 11 of them, but I did it strictly to improve my health and my mobility.

I didn’t expect to get that Twiggy look and, of course, I still have saggy arms and won’t be planning any further surgery to tighten the skin on my tummy or bingo wings. I still loathe the changing rooms at the swimming pool or the clothes shop, just as I hated being naked in the showers at school.

If it weren’t for a physiotherapist’s advice that swimming is good for my replaced hips, I doubt I’d even try to swim. I still don’t like the look of myself in a cossie and genuinely have no desire to flaunt my mutilated breast.

And yet in the days after my emphatic, principled refusal to do The Real Full Monty, I began to feel guilty.

Hadn’t I always spoken openly about my own mastectomy after breast cancer, and done my best on Woman’s Hour to encourage women to check for symptoms and do something about them quickly?

Was I not a patron of the charity Breast Cancer Now, and had I not insisted, in a book I wrote a good 20 years ago called The Woman’s Hour, that we included a photograph of a woman, naked from the waist up, who’d had a radical mastectomy and no reconstruction?

The publishers were reluctant. It was a pretty radical act in the days when it was considered unacceptable to so much as say the word ‘breast’ in polite company.

The TV version has the noble aim of promoting the importance of examining yourself for signs of breast cancer - something Jenni (pictured) dealt with first hand, and even had a mastectomy

The TV version has the noble aim of promoting the importance of examining yourself for signs of breast cancer – something Jenni (pictured) dealt with first hand, and even had a mastectomy

If it had been important to show women then that being flat on one side was nothing to fear or be ashamed of, why, now, was I too scared to put my money where my mouth is?

Sadly, I have become convinced that the pressure on women’s looks is greater now than ever. The perfect body is a rare and beautiful thing but generally unattainable unless you are born that way. Yet we seem determined to ignore that simple fact.

I worry a lot about the impact the internet is having on young women, who suffer more pressure than I have ever endured to get the right look.

Globally, the number of cosmetic surgery procedures has increased from 14 million to 23 million annually since 2010. Men make up 14 per cent of patients and women the rest.

It’s a costly business so, as was reported on Channel 4 News this week, a significant number are seeking cheaper deals abroad.

One young woman had had her nose and other parts of her face done but wanted more to become an effective Instagram influencer. The results were disastrous. She showed an enormous bleeding hole in her left breast and said her nipple had ‘just fallen off’.

Jenni (pictured after losing her hair due to chemotherapy) claims there is no better way to show young girls what real women's bodies look like than by stripping off on TV

Jenni (pictured after losing her hair due to chemotherapy) claims there is no better way to show young girls what real women’s bodies look like than by stripping off on TV

I wanted to weep for her — and beg her and others like her to learn to live comfortably with what they had been given. Surgery is all very well for your health, in my case for cancer and dangerous obesity, but please, not just for vanity.

What better way to show young girls what real women’s bodies look like than by stripping off on TV?

It was also, I told myself, a chance to put more pressure on the NHS to reverse its ageist new policy, introduced in the wake of Covid-19, of denying women aged over 70 routine mammograms for the foreseeable future for their own ‘protection’. A policy, of course, which leaves many at risk of breast cancer going undetected. And so — with great trepidation — I said I would do the show.

She says she spent half of her adult life on some sort of diet and eventually had surgery in 2015 to help her lose weight

She says she spent half of her adult life on some sort of diet and eventually had surgery in 2015 to help her lose weight

That’s when they dropped the next big shock: that it was to be an ice spectacular, filmed in Blackpool.

Strong words were communicated to the producers at this stage. I haven’t donned a pair of ice skates since my kids were small. Skating was out of the question. I had even been worried about a dance routine, what with my two metal hips and the left arm that hasn’t risen above my shoulder since I broke my humerus six years ago.

I was promised that the choreographer, Ashley Banjo of Diversity fame, would find a way of including me without risking more breaks in my old bones. And the filming would be, as they say, ‘in the best possible taste’.

I was somewhat reassured, made a commitment — and have barely had an anxiety-free day since then.

I first met my co-stars at a freezing cold ice rink in Bayswater, West London (no thermals). Given the subject matter, our first meeting could have been miserable. Far from it. We were soon gossiping away. No skates were required, either, thank goodness, which I intend will remain the case for me. I’ve suggested being brought on in a sledge! Queen of the ice!

Instead, we put non-slip attachments on to our shoes, stepped nervously on to the ice and found what I can only describe as large plastic doughnuts with which we were to play human curling. I got to sit inside one while Zoe and Linda pushed me across the ice.

We laughed a lot and, yes, despite our differences we bonded.

Giggling and gossiping are often derided in women as frivolous occupations. They’re not. It’s how we manage to connect and trust each other in a way men rarely achieve with such ease.

The next training session took place at a cabaret club where we learned burlesque with a delightful dance teacher and three of her pupils.

As result of the surgery in 2015, when she weighed 24 stone, she was able to lose 11 stone but says she only did it to improve her health and her mobility. Pictured, Jenni with her DBE in 2011

As result of the surgery in 2015, when she weighed 24 stone, she was able to lose 11 stone but says she only did it to improve her health and her mobility. Pictured, Jenni with her DBE in 2011

They’d all had mastectomies, showed them to us quite without fear or embarrassment, and gave us lessons in how to be confident about our bodies. It must have worked to some degree because there is now film of me tottering down a staircase, flirtatiously, covered with a huge red feather fan.

Watch this space. Will the fan come off?

The choice, I’m assured, is mine — but I hope, as the oldest and least mobile of the group, I won’t be the one to bottle out.

I’ll hate it but I shall do my best to be confident about it.

Still, I intend to insist that the costume I have to wear has sleeves to hide my arms and doesn’t show my middle, whatever else it reveals. Not all that confident then!

The performance promises to be a spectacle but not a salacious strip show.

I only hope that, after all this work, the breast cancer message will be heard loud and clear and that, by the time the show airs near Christmas, the NHS will have sorted out the mammogram and treatment question so that they are available for any woman who needs them, of whatever age.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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