Nick Clegg's Double Standards On Liberal Democrat Unpaid Interns
Liberal Democrat headquarters continue to recruit at least nine unpaid interns three times a year, despite Nick Clegg’s championing of a campaign to have interns paid, The Huffington Post UK can reveal.
The Lib Dem website advertises "intensive" placements in nine areas that "typically last three to four months". Yet despite the lengthy period, the party only offers expenses for the equivalent of a zone 1-6 travel card, and up to £5 a day for lunch.
The party claims to "particularly welcome applications from underrepresented groups". But when a Huffington Post UK reporter called the Lib Dem office to enquire whether the party would consider funding travel from outside London, we were told we would have to "negotiate" with the relevant department.
A member of staff from the human resources office said: "Sometimes extra expenses are arrangeable, but only if the cost is not much more than the equivalent of a zone 1-6 card."
That equates to £15.
A spokesperson from Lib Dem HQ said the issue was a "barrier" they "need to address".
"We try to work out the best way to make travel as easy as possible", the spokesperson added.
The meagre offerings from the Lib Dem office is a direct contrast to Clegg's recent social mobility campaign, where he urged public relations agencies to scrap unpaid internships.
"Too often it's who you know - not what you know - that counts," Clegg pointed out on 13 October, despite having previously secured a placement at a Finnish bank through his father's wealthy connections.
On the day Clegg's social mobility strategy was launched on 5 April 2011, the deputy prime minister's scheme was blighted by student John Medland criticising Clegg for paying the "bare minimum" in expenses while he worked in the Lib Dem office.
Clegg admitted he was wrong to employ an unpaid intern, saying he was not the "slightest bit ashamed" to say the system was wrong.
As a recent Huffington Post UK blogger pointed out in the wake of Jeremy Hunt advertising for unpaid interns, MPs rely on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which makes it legal for MPs to take on unpaid interns.
Ben Lyons, co-director of the Intern Aware organisation, which campaigns for a fairer internship system, said:
"The problem is Clegg has not backed up his words with actions."
Lyons pointed out both Clegg and Ed Miliband started their careers as interns and expressed his concern at politics becoming a "closed shop".
"In politics especially, the reality is interning is a valuable way of getting ahead. We don't want the next generation of politicians being a skewed disproportionate bunch of the rich minority and those who happen to live in London."
The Lib Dem spokesperson added the party was "investigating ways of supporting a scholarship" and admitted there "should be a proper remuneration for unpaid interns."
"In an ideal world we would want to pay everyone a wage for the work they do," he added.