Oi, Dave, get these kids a job

Cameron unveiled an extra £20m to be spent on traineeships of just six months. These aren't real jobs but work-experience


Do parents really shape how we think? I don't think so. The whole furore about Ed Miliband's dad is based on the misguided notion that his sins as a Marxist (if any) have been inherited by his children. Mind you, picking on people's backgrounds as a way of implying they've got "problems" relating to voters started when Nadine Dorries derided David Cameron and his circle as "posh boys".

Labour – many of whom were privately educated, or who attended grammar or independent schools – sneered at the Tories who had been to Eton. This is ludicrous – a sperm has no choice about where it might be sent to school. All our parents give us is a bed and meals, annoying rules, and plenty of advice that starts with the word "DON'T".

Of course they might pass on manners and social skills – although the number of our children who die, are severely beaten and starved at the hands of their parents within their own homes indicates that for many in modern Britain, parenting is an option rather than a necessity.

The one thing parents don't pass on is their political views – quite the reverse. Most young people would hate to be bracketed with Dad's take on running the country. Miliband and Cameron loved their dads – that is clear – but this row is a distraction from the fact that neither party has offered any clear-sighted, radical solution to our biggest social problem – youth unemployment. That's what these two dads could do for the next generation.

Instead, Cameron unveiled an extra £20m to be spent on traineeships of just six months. These aren't real jobs but work-experience, and help to improve literacy and prepare for an interview. That's about £20 a Neet – hardly enough to get someone started. At the same time the Government plans to cut benefits to under-25s, implying too many are "choosing" a life on the dole.

Miliband, Clegg and Cameron need to treat youth unemployment as a national disaster, and refrain from ramping up rows about the press.

Desert delight

Sometimes Desert Island Discs throws up a perfect playlist from a very unexpected quarter; listening to last week's show I discovered that Lee Mack, the stand-up comedian and star of BBC's Not Going Out, and I have more in common than I thought. From Adam Faith to Queen and David Bowie, Joy Division to Adam Ant and James, this was soundtrack heaven, and Lee's final choice, "Astral Weeks" by Van the Man, the icing on the cake.

I love the books of Zadie Smith but her appearance the week before yielded an oddly uninspiring mix of tracks, from Bob Dylan to Madonna. Zadie confessed her friends once said she had crap taste in music – she could be right.

Trails for this show now have irritating background music behind Kirsty's voice. Please don't tinker with what already works perfectly.

I ♥ Dirty D

I've developed an unlikely crush on Damian McBride. His performance on Newsnight recently was masterly, reducing Paxo to platitudes. McBride's book Power Trip strips away the fluff, the verbiage, the feeble excuses and the patronising twaddle that gushes from our political leaders and their spin doctors and we are left with the equivalent of cage fighting; The Thick of It now looks tame. Like Mark Thompson and so many troubled men at the centre of power, Damian is a devout Catholic. Of course, those crumpled grey suits have got to go, and so has about 10 kilos, but given a choice between dinner with Dirty D or an hour with that other Prince of Darkness, self-righteous media whore Alastair Campbell, I know who I'd choose.

Campbell was allowed to mouth off about the Daily Mail on Radio 4's PM the other night, slagging it off as disgusting, etc etc, and having the gall to say he would never behave like that. I felt nauseous, and the BBC should be castigated for not imposing any kind of balance on this interview.

Damian says writing the book detailing his lurid smear tactics and bully-boy manners was an act of catharsis, and it's clear he seeks forgiveness. How ironic then, that the organisation he works for as director of communications – Cafod, the Catholic aid agency – has turned down his offer of 50 per cent of the royalties. I thought it was a charity associated with compassion, and its action is baffling. It should take the money before Damian gives it to another worthy cause. I hope he keeps his job.

Miley's so non-U

Sinead O'Connor's "open letter" to Miley Cyrus contained good advice, coming from someone who's always been painfully honest about her mistakes. Miley claims her latest video was inspired by the one for Sinead's "Nothing Compares 2 U", claiming "it's the modern version … tough but really pretty". In it, the 20-year-old former Disney star licks a sledgehammer and sits naked on a wrecking ball. Sinead's first open letter was written "in the spirit of motherliness", praising the young star's talent, saying "you are worth more than your body". Even Britney has complained about the way she's pushed into using sexual imagery to sell her music – so Sinead has a point.

Sadly, though, Ms Cyrus decided to mock Sinead's battle with mental illness, by posting old tweets, and has been threatened with legal action. Sinead hit back with "when you end up in the psych ward or rehab I'll be happy to visit you".

A few months ago, I appeared on a TV show in Dublin, and to my delight, Sinead was on the bill. We hadn't seen each other for 10 years, and she was in fine form. Sinead is an original talent, whereas Miley is a product created by marketing men who seem to have got their strategy terribly wrong.

Willy wonder

Willies of every size and shape abound at Sarah Lucas's long overdue retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery. When asked to name a role model I'm usually stumped, but, after this show, Sarah has gone to the top of my list. For a shy, modest women, her art is raucous, in-your-face and rancid – in the best possible way. It says much about modern sexual politics using the seediest props possible. A fried egg, half a melon or a kebab is imbued with meaning.

I'd like to entomb the smug blokes who dominate TV panel shows (Dara O'Briain, Sean Lock, David Mitchell and Greg Davies – need I go on?) for the night in Sarah-world and see if they can cope. Find out if their brains get rewired. Her art has its roots in the strong tradition of ribald English humour; Rowlandson and Cruikshank, Chaucer and Fanny Hill, seaside postcards and Max Wall, but she's also inspired by surrealism and Dada.

Her NUDS, those creepy snaking flesh coloured limbs made with stuffed tights, are neither masculine or feminine – just a cry for help in the confusing world of gender and power. Some critics describe Sarah as a feminist, but that label is too restrictive. She's a one off, uncompromising and hard-core.


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