Martin Bright

Is this the Most Stupid Headline Ever?

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This morning's Telegraph excelled itself in the idiocy stakes. The headline on the story about the government's Future Jobs Fund announcement was dripping with the kind of sneering philistine right-wing pomposity we will probably have to live with for the next half-decade. "£1bn scheme to create 'soft jobs" screamed the "hamper" story across the top of the front page. This scheme was first announced in the Budget, but the first tranche of 47,000 jobs, mainly created in local authorities was announced by Peter Mandelson and Yvette Cooper today.

Examples of "soft jobs" given by the Telegraph included "dance assistants, tourism ambasadors and solar panel engineers". The paper quotes Susie Squire of the Taxpayers' Alliance saying: "Soft jobs like these would be indulgent even in good economic times let alone in the current climate."

This evolved from an earlier version of the story, still available on the web, which included in the soft catagory "forestry workers, loft laggers and child carers", all of which sound like pretty tough jobs to me, certainly compared to "Daily Telegraph senior headline writer " or "mouthpiece for the Taxpayers' Alliance".

So what would a "hard job" be in this mad universe. Perhaps it would be working in service to the landed gentry, hand-milking a cow or hand-scything wheat. Or maybe it would mean stoking a boiler with coal  till your lungs give out or stuffing bristles in a toothbrush till your fingers bleed -- all jobs done by my grandparents.  

I happened to be at the breakfast event held to announce the new jobs because my organisation, New Deal of the Mind, has been involved in a bid to create 30 new jobs at the Southbank centre in London. These will take young people off the streets of south London and turn them into hosts at the Royal Festival Hall and other venues at the Southbank. These "softies" will also act as ambassadors to the local community, persuading people who live on the estates in south London that the "high culture" of the Southbank Centre is for them as well as Daily Telegraph readers. "Soft jobs"? I think not.

There are plenty of reasons to criticise the Future Jobs Fund. Chief among these is its failure to address the issue of entrepreneurship and self-employment as I have outlined in a report written by NDotM for the Arts Council and published last week. I rehearsed some of these arguments in a comment piece for the Telegraph on Friday.

So where did this nonsense about "soft jobs" come from? I invite the headline writers and reporters on that story to try their hand as loft laggers, solar panel engineers or even dance assistants. They wouldn't last a day.