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Nick Clegg: Wrong and hypocritical on unpaid internships

By Angela Harbutt
October 16th, 2011 at 4:00 pm | 10 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Uncategorized

LDV reported yesterday thatNick Clegg has thrown his weight behind a campaign being launched by PR Week and the PRCAs to end the practice of unpaid internships. The post goes on to say “To launch the campaign, the PRCA will today take the step of placing a list on its website of all PRCA member agencies who commit to paying at least the National Minimum Wage to interns.

Hmmm. How many unpaid  interns do the Lib Dems employ I wonder? Back in April of this year, didn’t I read about  Jonny Medland who worked – for free – for Mr Clegg for three months in 2007 when he was Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman? Yes I did…. I also read in the same article that “The Lib Dems said they would start paying interns at their party HQ after Mr Clegg’s speech on Tuesday….. But a party spokesman later told the BBC it would not happen straight away ..” and then Mr Clegg’s pledge does not apply to interns working in the Parliamentary offices of Lib Dem MPs..” . How it unravels.

And indeed it would appear that we are still running adverts for unpaid interns (Recent graduates looking for an internship can click on the ad to go to the website advertising this particular one).

So when Guido asks the perfectly reasonable question “Is Lib Dem HQ paying interns properly yet?…. the reply from one Lib Dem member was truly gobsmacking…

“Guido – With our loss of the ‘Short’ money given to opposition parties and as we receive nothing from vested interests we are skint, unlike your beloved Tories! Of course we would wish to pay our interns. When you support state funding of political parties to get us all all out of the pockets of big business and the unions I will take your criticism more seriously!”

OK it was one rubbish answer from a random Lib Dem in the comments . But I think it sums up this attitude that somehow we are the oppressed small party and so our actions are excusable. They are not. Many small and large businesses, charities and NGO’s don’t receive “short” money, or the many other privileges that come from being inside the political system, and they are skint too! I see no reason at all why PR companies should be battered into paying interns minimum wage and political party’s not. Nor should Nick.

But before he writes off Lib Dem internships (because the party can’t afford them – so it’s unpaid internships or NO internships) he should consider all those youngsters that want to take an internship at the Lib Dems. They will get experience in the workplace, an insight into the party and how it operates and contacts that can last a lifetime. Better surely that youngsters are allowed, if they choose, to sieze these opportunities?

We all know the unemployment stats for young people at the moment. Expert after expert on the media has advised that young people should “not give up” and that finding “voluntary work”, to give them a sense of fulfilment, boost self esteem, gain experience and get a more rounded CV, is an excellent option for those seeking a job or planning to do so soon.

If working for free for the voluntary sector is ” a good thing” for young people… surely the same applies to unpaid internships? Nick seems to think no….Voluntary work – excellent and admirable; Unpaid internships-evil exploitation (except when we do them). I hope he will explain to the many youngsters, that will be denied this opportunity as companies shut down their internship programmes, why this is in their best interests.

Nick has made an error on this issue – he is both wrong on the issue and inconsistent with his own party practises…. and liberal is certainly isn’t.

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