The Prime Minister Theresa May has stunned young voters by picking as her new Work and Pensions Secretary an MP who has previously been reported to officials for recruiting unpaid interns to his constituency office.

In the past few years, Graduate Fog has had several run-ins with MP David Gauke over multiple unpaid positions he has advertised publicly, at one point becoming so frustrated by his refusal to apologise or change his behaviour that we worked with fellow campaigners Intern Aware to report him to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). As he was Conservative treasury minister responsible for HMRC at the time, this means we effectively reported him to his own department. (Needless to say, we never heard anything further about the case. Funny, that.) 

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So we were astonished to see that Theresa May yesterday chose to award Gauke with a massive promotion in her post-election Cabinet reshuffle. In his new role as Work and Pensions Secretary, Gauke will be responsible for – among other things – the administration of the benefits system to workers.

Long-standing readers of Graduate Fog will remember that this was the position that Iain Duncan Smith held when he rolled out the highly controversial ‘Workfare’ system which saw claimants being forced to work for no wages, or risk losing their benefits.

The system was eventually dismantled after challenges by several participants, including ‘Poundland intern’ Cait Reilly, a university graduate forced to work in the discount store for free.


It is unclear whether Gauke will have any role in actioning the recommendations from the forthcoming Taylor Report into Modern Employment Practices, which will include suggestions from the Social Mobility Commission on internships. But one thing is certain: for a Government that desperately needs to win support from young voters after last week’s shock election result, this is a pretty bad start. In fact, Graduate Fog predicts this ill-judged and insensitive appointment is likely to enrage them further.

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