The Liberal Democrats have broken a promise they made last year to stop using unpaid interns within 12 months, brazenly advertising multiple placements on their ‘internship scheme’ lasting over three months and paying expenses only.

In April 2011, Nick Clegg promised that by that time next year “proper remuneration” would be paid to anyone who secured a work placement with his party. Yet on Monday an advert was posted on political jobs website w4mp advertising a ‘voluntary’ internship scheme, paying travel and lunch expenses only:

Date Added: 16 April 2012
Closing Date: 23 April 2012
Job Title:Internship Scheme
Working For:Liberal Democrat (Federal) HQ
Salary:Voluntary. Travel and lunch expenses available
Job Details:

The Liberal Democrats offer an internship scheme for those wishing to undertake short term voluntary placements with the Party after completing full time education or in anticipation of a change of career direction.

Our internships are short intensive volunteer placements that offer you the opportunity to gain experience of the practical and professional side of Party politics. You will have the opportunity to join the team at Liberal Democrat HQ and in Parliament and gain experience of life at the heart of Westminster.

There are a range of opportunities across the organisation, including in areas such as campaigns, policy, media, and events. Please visit our website for more information

Closing Date:23 April 2012
Interview/Start Dates:

Flexible placement periods:
14 May 2012 — 17 August 2012 (Application Deadline: 23 April 2012)
3 September 2012 — 14 December 2012 (Application Deadline: 1 August 2012)
21 January 2013 — 3 May 2013 (Application Deadline: 1 December 2012)

Job Contact:

Please visit our website for more details


Speaking to the BBC last April, Clegg had promised:

“From now on, people who are advertising for internships in Liberal Democrat offices or Liberal Democrat MP will have to make sure that applications are name and school blind and there’s proper remuneration so that we give new people opportunity to participate in that kind of political activity.”

When questioned by the Guardian about the apparent back-track, a Lib Dem spokesperson said that selection for places would be name and school blind and argued that they were “properly remunerated” – as Clegg had promised – because expenses and lunch were being paid. Yup, that’s right, in his own words: “The rules of the scheme do provide for proper remuneration in that they provide for lunch and travel expenses.” Plans to provide bursaries for poorer candidates will not be available in 2012 due to lack of party funds. He also insisted:

“The internships are designed to be three months and to provide a number of different experiences of working for the party. The Liberal Democrat internship scheme is particularly aimed at recent graduates and all our internships are voluntary. There will be no contract to work set hours or undertake set tasks.”

They said that they were “planning to bring forward proposals” which would look into paying interns, as soon as they could but could not give a date and did not have the money to currently do so.

The government’s own legal advisors have warned that under minimum wage laws, many internships including those in MP’s offices could be breaking the law because they remain unpaid and therefore exploitative under the law.

As Graduate Fog told the Guardian, we are baffled by the Lib Dems’ continued ability to look this generation in the eye. What do they think they’re playing at, continuing to use young people’s labour without paying for it?

Claiming they can’t afford to pay their young staff is irrelevant and insulting — travel and lunch expenses are not a wage and nobody can live on that. The Lib Dems — and all the other parties — must find the money to pay the staff they need, end of story.

In continuing to run unpaid internships, Nick Clegg and his party should know they are directly contributing to the graduate jobs crisis, in which hundreds of thousands of young people have already worked for nothing — and many more have been locked out of these ‘opportunities’ simply because they can’t afford to work for free.

See the ad for yourself

Graduate Fog and Intern Aware will shortly be launching a new campaign to help interns get justice against high profile employers, including MPs. You may well be entitled to claim back pay (at minimum wage) for the period you worked. Contact us for more details – all correspondence will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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