Archive for July, 2009

Internships: The rich and well connected - A Case Study of Euan Blair

Subject: Euan Anthony Blair

Profile: The son and heir of the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair

Future big shot

Future big shot

To quote Wikipedia:

“He is known principally for being found inebriated in Leicester Square as a teenager, having a flat purchased by his mother for use while a student at Bristol University and having his appendix removed.”

After graduating with an unspectacular 2:1 in Ancient History from Bristol in 2005, the typical graduate life of struggle and drudgery did not befall Euan. The money and connections kicked in.

In 2005, he spend two months interning at a French radio station owned by France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault – a sometime private guest of the Prime Minister at his country house, Chequers.

A year later he landed another internship working for Republican politicians in Washington DC.

“The former Prime Minister’s son spent his time making photocopies and helping to set up hearings for the committee – ‘just general intern-type duties’, according to a spokesman.”

I am sure having the surname ‘Blair’ was no help at all. After another few weeks interning for Democrats, Euan left to pursue an MA… but not just any MA, an MA at Yale with a scholarship of £50,000.

This came as some surprise to other Yale students, who had no recollection of such a grant being made to a postgraduate before, particularly one with an unspectacular 2: 1 in ancient history. Maybe it was the internships that swayed it?

And now what for our well connected friend? He is about to begin a 30grand graduate traineeship with Morgan Stanley, where his father’s former right-hand man, Jonathan Powell, is a top executive.

Calling All Parliamentary Interns

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Work Experience and Graduate Unemployment on London News

Ed Balls buys his interns books

The Yorkshire Post reported on Ed Balls’ expenses a while ago and we’ve only just picked this up-

In March 2006, he claimed for two books titled: “The Rebels: How Blair mislaid his constituency” and “Reasons to be Cheerful”. His spokesman said: “The House of Commons office manager purchased two political books as a leaving gift for a university politics student who had been doing unpaid voluntary work in our House of Commons office.

The Yorkshire Post is slightly wrong- as the first book seems to be called: ‘The Rebels: How Blair mislaid his Majority’. Published in 2005, this book gives a ‘more or less scholarly’ overview of rebellion in the labour party. The second is the delightful ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ by Mark Steel- a touching and hilarious romp through 25 years of political activism and a critique of New Labour’s betrayal of the old left…that’s what I like to see- a subtle undermining of his own party by Ed Balls. Look he can swing on ropes too:

Everyone loves a good photo op

Everyone loves a good photo op

Written by: RosyR

A Tale of Two Interns Vid

Channel 4 News: A tale of two interns

We helped with the research for this Channel 4 Report:  

In parliament itself, hundreds of young graduates aspiring to a political career work for free just to get their foot in the door. Chris Grey is one of 450 Westminster interns who put in 18,000 hours of unpaid work every week. He is effectively paying to work for an MP because he wants a job in a political think tank or as a parliamentary aide, but both demand experience. He can only do his internship because his parents are helping him pay his rent in London.

“I’m lucky enough that my parents can help me out financing this thing, but someone from poorer background who doesn’t live in London - they just simply couldn’t afford to do this,” he said.

“If you’ve got to do this to then get in to become a researcher or move up the party structure, then it’s going to bias the party structure in favour of middle class people who live in London.

“Obviously I would rather get paid. I don’t feel exploited but I suppose I kind of am being exploited really.”

The majority of MPs interns are unpaid and can only take advantage of the experience at Westminster, because their parents help them pay for accommodation in London.

Alan Milburn’s report on social mobility contained a whole chapter on internships, and it said “a radical change is needed”. He said informal arrangements based on family connections should be replaced with open competition and internships should be financed through loans or by getting workplaces to stump up the money people need to survive.

But a study by Martine Martin from the University of Hull, herself an unpaid parliamentary intern for six months, found that one in four interns working for MPs has been privately educated and two thirds rely on family financial support to take up internships.

The study found that 39 per cent of the 77 interns questioned had exhausted their savings to fund their work placements, 33 per cent relied on student loans and grants and 27 per cent had to use overdrafts and credit cards.

Daniella Oliveros-Elvidge moved from Venezuela as a student. She had to give up her degree because she ran out of money. But she got herself one week’s work experience in Downing Street after she collared Gordon Brown at a question and answer session in London.

“That should not be the route for you to get into politics,” she said. “More young people should get involved.

“For somebody from a not very privileged background to go and do an internship, or somebody who cannot really afford to like myself, It is just really difficult.

“I can’t really afford to do an internship with an MP for three months without being paid. I need to eat and pay bills.”

The trade union Unite, which represents parliamentary workers, says the way parliament finds interns is unfair and needs to change.

Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis has tabled an early day motion backing Unite’s call for an “intern agreement” similar to an employment contract. He has the support of the Speaker of the House, John Bercow.

James Martin: “Most internships are jobs first and learning experiences second”

JM Venue Article pic

“What’s socially acceptable in desirable professions would be unthinkable for traditionally working-class jobs.”

Read the article here: JM Venue Article

Interns stave off the effect of recession- going stateside

In ‘L.A’s Galleries reframe the recession’, the L.A Times tells us how the Art world is coping with recession. Galleries are closing down, moving place, diversifying and sacking staff. And here comes the relevant bit- they are hiring unpaid interns to replace the staff! Brilliant…I guess it’s cruel cruel capitalism that’s to blame but there is nothing internship about replacing someone’s paid position with an unpaid one. 


Nice pictures from the LA art scene

Nice pictures from the LA art scene

Worcester University develops new paid internship scheme

The Independent has published an article about Worcester University’s new paid internship scheme. Graduates get paid to do 4 days a week interning in a local business and spend the other day gaining a qualification in business. Good thinking from the Vice Chancellor David Green- he managed to channel money from various funds into this scheme, whilst the government are still umming and aaahhing- rather than acting. The scheme allows students to get work experience, an extra qualification and to avoid further…debt. 


Clever David Green- Vice Chancellor of Worcester Uni

Clever David Green- Vice Chancellor of Worcester Uni

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Speaker joins Interns campaign

The new speaker, John Bercow, will be speaking at an event in October on the importance of a fair and accessible internship system in parliament.

The reform of Parliament does not just include expenses or outside incomes… but the way the whole system is run. This begins with basic rights for those that work in MPs offices. The 450 or so interns, working 18,000 hours a week deserve representation and minimum wage. With reformer Bercow on board we can see the start of a successful campaign. 

Milburn Reaction

 The response to the Milburn report has been mixed. I was glad that people were discussing the issues of internships. Some have said the report states the obvious, others have been dismissive.

Listening to some of radio debate about the issues that the report raised, people seem to have misread the core findings. Obviously the rich/working class divide is a clear marker for people to acknowledge – but its surprising papers like the  Mail have not picked up that it’s kids from middle class families that are missing out on good graduate jobs because, although they might get a great degree from a great university… this is no longer enough to get you an entry level graduate job. Its not just working class families who are missing out on connections and internships – it’s anyone outside a select London bubble.

Given that many journalists exist in this bubble themselves, and employ rafts of interns to bring them coffee and wipe their arses, it’s no surprise that this isn’t getting as much coverage as it should do. I’m not being a conspiracy theorist, or suggesting there is a cover up. I just don’t think they see it as important.

There have been some good follow-ups to the issues Milburn raises. Polly Toynbee, for instance, writes:  

The rise of unpaid internships gets the blast it deserves. It’s free labour slavery for the young who can afford to do it and yet denies access to all without parents to support them. All kinds of professions gladly take in bright graduates for free, so their CVs shine with experience their less fortunate contemporaries lack. It should be banned under employment law: instead the recommendation here is for a code of practice with a Kitemark, requiring wages and grants. 

Roy Greenslade discusses the problems facing the unsupported getting into journalism:

At the centre of most of the discussion, however, is the fact that would-be journalists are now often required to do long stints of unpaid work experience, a fact that has been pointed out by Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ. This is fine if your family lives within striking distance of your chosen publication, or you are sufficiently well-off to support yourself while your pay packet hovers around zero, or you know someone who can get you into a newsroom – or indeed all three – but a bit trickier if they don’t. And by a bit trickier, I mean pretty much impossible, given the level of student debt many candidates are likely to be carrying and the competition for work experience placements.

Then came the phenomenon of working for nothing. Newspapers, magazines and broadcasters discovered a ready supply of young, enthusiastic students willing to take up unpaid short-term work experience places and even long-term internships. Only the wealthiest of budding journalists can afford to work without pay.

Indeed, only relatively wealthy young people can afford to take the one-year post-grad course at City University. We now charge about £8,000 to enrol on the masters course in journalism, a well-known stepping stone towards journalistic careers in newspapers, magazines, television and radio.

Given the high cost of accommodation in London, it is virtually impossible for working class graduates to afford (though I concede that, remarkably, some still manage to do so).

Sadly its only the Guardian which feels the need to mention these issues, or develop on the points Milburn raises. So much of the reaction on the blogosphere has been un-constructive and dismissive. My hope is that the report is the beginning of a wider discussion about internships - I fear this will be drowned out in a debate about private schools, working class inner city kids and political posturing.  

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