A Labour councillor – who is also a barrister specialising in employment law – has advertised for an intern to work unpaid in her offices in Lambeth, one of the ten most deprived boroughs in London.

A spokesperson for Intern Aware, Ben Lyons, has told Graduate Fog:

“Ed Miliband pledged to Intern Aware that as leader of the Labour party, he would do his utmost to stamp out unpaid internships. As such it is particularly disappointing that Leanne Targett-Parker, a Labour politician and employment lawyer, is refusing to pay her workers.”

One of Graduate Fog’s users – who we’ll call ‘Sally’ – emailed me a link to the ad, which read:

Intern Reference:27234
Posted: 15 November 10
Working for: Cllr Leanne Targett-Parker (Lambeth)
Salary: No salary but up to Zone 3 travel card included
Details: The job is located in Herne Hill and Brixton (Lambeth)

Skills required:

  • handling casework enquiries
  • conducting research
  • attending meetings
  • dealing with correspondence
  • local campaigning
  • updating website
  • drafting campaign literature

The post may require attendance of occasional evening meetings.

Close: Closing date 30 November 2010, interviews 1-3 December 2010 with a start date of 6 December 2010

Contact: Please send covering letter and CV to Leanne at [Email address withheld by Graduate Fog. Boy, I’m nice…]

Acknowledgements will be sent to all responses.

website http://www.welovehernehill.org.uk

Sally said she was contacting me because she was disgusted by Ms Targett-Parker’s response to her own concerns about whether the role should be paid.

When Sally emailed Targett-Parker to raise the question of whether this role should be paid the National Minimum Wage, the Labour councillor replied:

“The post is as it is and that is final. You are not obligated to apply.”


Graduate Fog sees a lot of ads for unpaid internships – but not usually with the name of a Labour councillor as the ’employer’. You’ll see from the screen shot (below) that Targett-Parker had also unashamedly used the Labour ‘rose’ as the graphic on the ad.

Why is this so significant?

First – and most obviously – because Labour is the party you’d expect to fight hardest for those who can’t afford to take unpaid internships — yet here they are, effectively making things even worse for those young people who can’t work for free.

They are also the party who brought in the National Minimum Wage – and the party that still has the closest ties with the workers’ unions. What are they doing advertising for an unpaid youngster to work for them for nothing?

The second reason it’s significant is because back in [WHEN], all five of the Labour leadership hopefuls – including the now leader Ed Miliband – signed InternAware’s pledge to help stamp out the practice of unpaid internships. And now, here they are, actually contributing to the problem.

Then, in a further plot twist, a quick Google search revealed that Ms Targett-Parker is also a barrister who specialises in… employment law. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

I’d seen enough. I emailed Councillor Targett-Parker:

From: Tanya de Grunwald
Subject: Your intern ad
To: Targett-Parker,Leanne Cllr
Date: Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 13:29

Dear Leanne

My name is Tanya de Grunwald and I run a graduate careers advice website called Graduate Fog.

I am interested to see that you are openly advertising for an unpaid intern to help you with your work as Lambeth Councillor.

As we both know, unpaid internships have become commonplace. However, it is my belief that they are ethically dubious – and their legal status is unclear.

The first reason I am particularly surprised by your ad is because of the political party you represent in your borough. You may or many not be aware that all five Labour leadership candidates signed Intern Aware’s pledge which stated:

“I pledge that if I am elected leader of the Labour Party I will campaign for Labour’s Minimum Wage Act to be fully enforced so that employers must pay their interns what they are due.”

Unpaid internships exploit those who do them – and exclude those who can’t afford to do them. I would expect somebody from your party to be particularly concerned about the impact of this practice on social mobility.

The second reason I am surprised by your ad is because I understand that you are also a barrister at Temple Court Chambers – and that you specialise in Employment Law.

Perhaps you would be able to explain to me why you believe that you are not required to pay your intern the National Minimum Wage?

I look forward to hearing from you.

With many thanks,


The following afternoon, I’d heard nothing, so I chased her:

From: Tanya de Grunwald
Fw: Your intern ad
To: Targett-Parker,Leanne Cllr
Date: Wed 1 December, 2010, 16:30

Hi again Leanne

I just wondered whether you plan to respond to the email I sent yesterday? I can give you more time if you need it, but shall we say that if I haven’t heard from you by the end of Thursday (tomorrow) then I will assume that you are declining to comment on this matter?

With thanks again,


The next morning, this arrived:

From: Targett-Parker,Leanne Cllr
Subject: RE: Your intern ad
To: “Tanya de Grunwald”
Date: Thursday, 2 December, 2010, 11:05

Dear Tanya

I apologise for not replying to your email dated 30 November 2010. I have received a number of replies to my advert for an intern and had filed them to go through once the deadline had closed. Due to the subject title, I did this to yours. Yesterday, as you so rightly point out I am a barrister; I spent in court unable to respond to Council emails.

My advert for an intern is not to exploit anyone but to offer an opportunity to people who are struggling to find a position within politics or a related industry. As a councillor, I do not receive a budget for staffing as some MPs do and if the position was paid it would not be available. I am funding the travel out of my own pocket.

Having experienced first hand the difficulty of finding a position within my chosen career, I understand that any contact, experience and opportunity is greatly appreciated by both candidates and employers. It took me 4 years from being called to the Bar to find a permanent tenancy and I undertook any work experience and opportunity I could to enhance my CV and mark me out from other candidates.

The internship I am offering is a real opportunity for someone to experience campaigning, research and grass roots politics and I firmly believe that this is, in the circumstances, sufficient consideration for the position.

I hope this responds to your concerns.



Cllr Leanne Targett-Parker
Labour Member
Herne Hill Ward

I responded:

From: Tanya de Grunwald
Subject: RE: Your intern ad
To: “Leanne CllrTargett-Parker”
Date: Thursday, 2 December, 2010, 17:33

Dear Leanne,

Many thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I believe you when you say that you are not deliberately looking to exploit the intern you plan to hire. I can also see that your beliefs about unpaid internships have been shaped by your own experiences during the early part of your career, which appear to have paid off, judging by how well you are doing now!

I too have worked for free for a while when breaking into journalism. At the time, I thought nothing of it – but now my views have changed as I see unpaid internships in a broader context. It is also worth pointing out that this was a number of years ago – and you may be unaware how much things have changed in recent years and how corrosive the practice of unpaid internships has become for young people hoping to start their careers today.

Unpaid internships exploit those who do them – and exclude those who can’t afford to do them. Whether or not the intern agrees to work for free – or feels exploited – they are being exploited if they are doing proper work for you, that has value, and you are not paying them. Your party fought for the National Minimum Wage because in this country we believe that nobody should have to work for less than a certain wage. That still stands – and it should apply to people at all stages of their career, and across all industries. If somebody is doing a proper day’s work, they should be paid a proper day’s wage.

While it may be true that you would not take on this intern if you had to pay them, I’m afraid I see that as no justification for your actions. I too would love to have an unpaid intern working for me, and I’m sure that I could argue that it as a fantastic opportunity for them to learn about journalism, running a website etc. But the fact is that I can’t afford to pay an intern, so I can’t have one. If you really need somebody in your office to do all the tasks listed in your ad, I suggest you find the money and pay them. If you don’t need someone enough to pay them, don’t hire them. That’s how jobs work, isn’t it?

And finally, even if we agree that this is a fantastic opportunity for somebody, do you not agree that the fact that the role is unpaid means that it will necessarily exclude candidates who cannot afford to work for nothing?

With thanks again


Then — radio silence. No reply. Four days later, I wrote:

From: Tanya de Grunwald [mailto:tanyadegrunwald@yahoo.co.uk]
Sent: 06 December 2010 12:19
To: Targett-Parker,Leanne Cllr
Subject: RE: Your intern ad

Hi Leanne

Can you just let me know whether you plan to respond to my latest email (dated 2 December), or whether I should consider our discussion closed?

Many thanks again


Two minutes later, she replied:

Dear Tanya

I have responded as fully as possible to your questions.



Cllr Leanne Targett-Parker
Labour Member
Herne Hill Ward

I responded:

Okay Leanne – let’s leave it there. Can you just confirm how long this internship is for?
Thanks again

Since when I have heard nothing.

Needless to say, I am extremely surprised to see that a Labour councillor in one of London’s ten most deprived boroughs — where 59% of children come from low-income families — seems to have so little understanding of the unpaid internships issue, and why the practice is so damaging to the prospects of so many of the UK’s young people.

Does Targett-Parker realise that in hiring an unpaid intern, she is only making matters worse for the next generation?

*What do you think?
Should a Labour councillor be hiring an unpaid intern? Do you agree that it is unfair on those who can’t afford to work for free – or is it ‘every man for himself’, when it comes to internships?

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