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Who started this plumbers myth?

There's one thing more forthright than an outspoken principal: an outspoken student. Kat Fletcher, leader of the National Union of Students, was at the 16-19 conference in Stratford-upon-Avon this week, giving it to 'em straight.

It wasn't just politicians who got an earful - mainly on funding and student representation - but journalists as well, I'm afraid.

We have, it seems, turned the shortage of plumbers into "part of contemporary English folklore", according to her speech.

"So much so, " she said, "that the staple of bored feature writers has become the headline 'stockbrokers give up their careers to become plumbers'."

Fair enough, Kat, although I do seem to remember that much of the hysteria in the first placewas generated by Charles Clarke who, as education secretary, banged on about the fact that it was hard to find a plumber in his Norfolk constituency.

Let's hope Ruth Kelly thinks there's a shortage of lecturers in her Bolton constituency.

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