Anger as Sussex MPs look to recruit unpaid interns

9:10am Wednesday 9th January 2013

By Ben James

Three MPs have been accused of preventing poorer youngsters getting into politics by recruiting unpaid interns.

Mike Weatherley, the MP for Hove, Crawley MP Henry Smith and Lewes MP Norman Baker are all currently recruiting for office staff to work in Westminster without pay.

The New Deal of the Mind group, which run a paid apprentice scheme in Parliament, called the recruitments “disappointing”, adding that it was unfair to expect people to work for large periods of time for free.

Mr Smith’s office is recruiting for the longest term intern, stipulating that candidates must be prepared to work full-time for three months.

The advert states: “Candidates should be recent graduates and must be able to clearly demonstrate a strong interest in politics and compatibility with Henry Smith’s interests; prior parliamentary experience would be advantageous.”

But despite the requirement of a university education, the Crawley MP is only offering travel expenses and a weekly food allowance.

Commitment

Candidates wanting to work in Mr Baker’s office need to commit to four days a week for three months.

Although a university degree isn’t essential, candidates need to have a “strong knowledge of social media, an interest in politics, be sympathetic to the values and policies of the Lib Dems and a good sense of humour”.

The transport minister’s office will pay for travel costs and a lunchtime allowance.

Mr Weatherley is looking for someone to draft policy letters, do research and carry out office admin for two days a week.

The post is unpaid but a “lively” office is promised with candidates expected to have a good sense of humour.

Candidates

Mr Baker MP defended his job advert, telling The Argus that he would not be short of candidates.

He added: “In my experience we have had a lot of people from different backgrounds.

“We get people who come and work for a couple of days a week and then stay with relatives so it does work.

“We make it as flexible as possible and pay for travel expenses.”

Mr Weatherley added: “I think that we should be extremely careful about stopping motivated people from working to get experience for their future careers.

“I’ve met volunteers from every background imaginable and can’t speak highly enough of their efforts.”

Talking point: To what extent should interns be paid for the work they do? Are unpaid internships limiting opportunities?

Are you a parent concerned your child cannot afford to get the experience they need?

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