THE BLOG
04/10/2013 05:56 BST | Updated 03/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Cameron's Fairy Tale

Fairy tales, it is argued, all consist of a combination of just 31 sequential elements; between the 'once upon a time' and the 'happily ever after', nothing ever takes place when it shouldn't.*

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference yesterday, David Cameron gave the impression that he thinks life works in much the same way, telling under-25s to: "Go to school. Go to college. Do an apprenticeship. Get a job."

Simplification is employed in every speech, of course. But inherent in this simplification is a belief that when you boil it down, our stories follow a linear narrative much like a fairy tale; there may be challenges, but when you stand back and look from a distance, the graph shows only an upward curve.

This is comforting, of course. And aspirational, perhaps. But true of Britain today, true enough to warrant withdrawing all benefits for under-25s, safe in the knowledge that there are opportunities enough out there if they are only incentivised to look? No.

My generation may be woefully under prepared. But not for work, (actually, many of us have got the grades, taken the exams, done the work experience and unpaid internships), but for the downs on the graph. For uncertainty. For insecurity.

Because we were told, assured, that if we followed the right path through the forest, there would be a future at the end of it. The exams, the career planning, gave us the picture of life that Cameron touted yesterday.

But what we found in the forest clearing wasn't grandmother's house, but the wolf. Redundancy just a few years out of university, endless internships, little career progression, zero hours contracts. Told after university with the letters from Student Loans already dropping onto the doormat that you should have taken a different degree; that you might have a dream, but it's a stupid dream and maybe you should aim lower. That ten years ago you'd have walked into a job.

Told we're work shy as we're turned away from bar work. That we're not trying hard enough. That it's the fault of the nearly one million 16-24 year olds who are unemployed that they haven't got a job.

Because life isn't a fairy tale. It is unpredictable. Things don't always happen in the way, or the order that they should, or the way we would like. And the economic situation hasn't improved enough not to be exacerbating that.

And so young people don't need less of a safety net - they need more. We need the freedom to be told that sometimes it takes a while to find what you really want to do. That it's ok to strike out because you will have support. To move to a different town, a different city if there's something there you think you need to do.

We don't need more stick, we need more understanding, more kindness, more opportunities. Otherwise to get Cameron's "happily ever after" ending for his little vignette will take one hell of a fairy godmother.

* jaced.com has a fun example where these elements are applied to Star Wars