Editor-At-Large: Middle England, fun little outfits - and a lot of hypocrisy

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There's a new, rather revolting kind of consumerism that's been picked up by the middle classes, and that's buying really cheap clothes you don't need, are never going to wear more than once, then telling all your mates how savvy you are because you've teamed a £3 top from Primark or Asda with a £300 handbag or a designer skirt from Selfridges or Harvey Nichols that set you back £200. I've been guilty of it myself - how I stocked up on those £5 packets of cotton pants before I went on holiday last summer, chucking them away rather than actually bothering to wash them, even though they probably would have been perfectly serviceable for at least six months. I've stuck a £3 T-shirt under a cashmere dress, popped a pair of Tesco cotton socks I bought in a packet of three inside my Versace biker boots. Never gave it a second thought. Once they piled sweets up at the tills in supermarkets; now they are selling us clothes we can wear and chuck within a week, all in the spurious name of "value".

It's the time of year when women, encouraged by the fashion press, buy glittery party dresses for £15 and then stick them in the bin after they've dropped a glass of wine down the front or failed to pull the office stud. You can't pick up a quality newspaper or a glossy magazine these days (and to think it was once just the tacky tabloids that delighted in telling how to dress for under £40) without seeing fashion pictures featuring merchandise from Asda, Tesco and Primark, places that once no fashionista would have been seen dead in.

We all seem keen to flaunt our eco-credentials by installing long-life light bulbs, buying recycled toilet paper and using environmentally friendly washing powder. But we are curiously incapable of joined-up thinking if we don't stop and think what all this unnecessary consumerism in the name of fashion means to the planet. The charity War on Want has just published a damning report revealing that workers at some of the factories in Bangladesh supplying Asda, Tesco and Primark were paid as little as 3p an hour, often working an 80-hour week for a paltry £8 a month. Although the three retailers are members of the Ethical Trade Initiative, in reality the factories supplying them with cheaply made clothing regularly flouted this code of conduct, cheating staff out of overtime and employing workers in appalling conditions.

The market in "value" clothing in Britain is worth £7.8bn a year - and virtually everything is made in the Third World, where wages and conditions are far below what British citizens would put up with. We seem so pathetically keen to eat free-range eggs, buying organic meat from animals we are assured have had a decent life, and yet every time we buy a pair of jeans for £25 or a T-shirt we don't need for a fiver, perhaps we should stop and think about the life of the poor sods who sat at the sewing machine and put the garment together. I think you'll find that a free-range chicken generally has a better time during its life than a garment worker in Bangladesh.

How many clothes do you really need? I love fashion, but surely it's time to do more recycling, or try to buy things made by people paid a decent wage. Just a thought to bear in mind this Christmas.

Smashing Posh, and there's a great new role for you

Victoria Beckham has confided to friends that her icon is Audrey Hepburn, and it is possible to see how Britain's top WAG is moulding herself into a contemporary version of the screen legend, with her newly ironed bob, bug-like sunglasses, and severe tailoring.

But, photographed house-hunting in Beverly Hills last week, Posh looked less like Audrey's Breakfast at Tiffany's character and more reminiscent of another legendary character - this time from the small screen - the robot Martians from the legendary Smash mashed potato television commercials created back in 1974. The ad was voted one of the top five ads of the 20th century by industry experts - and how we all loved those happy robots in their spaceship gurgling with laughter at the pathetic earthlings who "boiled potatoes and then smash them to bits!" Premier Foods, which owns Smash, plans to revive the product with a more "nutritious" recipe. There's only one person who can possibly star in the ads: step forward Mrs Beckham.

Fur fashion: The message from Madonna: I really don't care

The last time I saw a chinchilla was a thoroughly memorable occasion. A couple of them were scampering through the rocks above the road on the side of a mountain in Chile. That day I climbed an extinct volcano and was sick from the lack of oxygen. From the summit at 17,500ft I could see for 50 miles across the Atacama desert. But what made my day were those happy, protected chinchillas, living in such a barren environment.

I wonder if Madonna gave one moment's thought about what the impact would be of turning up at a fashionable restaurant wearing a Fendi coat made from chinchilla pelts. It sends out one particular message loud and clear: I'm a rich bitch who doesn't give a fuck. As a bit of PR, this was a total disaster. Madonna was prepared to do anything to get the African child she wants to adopt, but when it comes to the wearing of fur, she seems curiously ignorant.

Unequal pay: Equlity at at the BBC? Don't make me laugh

The BBC is always trumpeting on about how it reflects the diversity of Britain and is in tune with the needs of minorities - all of which sounds a bit rich when we discover that female news correspondents working for the corporation on the news bulletins at one, six and 10pm are paid on average £6,500 less than their male counterparts. You will not be surprised to note that these women are, on average, five years younger than the men doing the same job.

It would be scurrilous to suggest that women are employed for their looks, but it has crossed my mind. When I was a BBC executive they asked me to sit on their "equality" committee. I declined - as a member of the superior sex, settling for equality would be a backward step. This latest revelation just proves that I was right - equality committees are a bit of politically correct window-dressing to please the governors and achieve bugger all.

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