Interns should be paid….
Something of a debate has started on Liberal Democrat Voice regarding the status of MP’s interns and whether or not they should be paid. It follows a report on the BBC’s Radio 5 Live suggesting that MP’s may well be breaking the law by not properly paying interns. I have to declare a vested interest here that I was an inter; however, unlike the person spoken to in the report I did receive expenses. However, I do not have a comfortable background and expenses are nowhere near enough for what at the end of the day is a job.
As is pointed out in the comments thread on Liberal Democrat Voice the non-payment of interns is discriminatory in that it unfairly favours those who have a background enabling them to work for free. I would have loved to continue my internship given my love of politics but was financially unable too.
An internship is not comparable to volunteering to deliver Focus leaflets as is suggested by Tim Leunig suggests; as Sara says in reply not only is it a job but also the first step on a career ladder;
Having supported a local young woman get three intern posts before finally getting a paid one, I know that almost all the paid jobs go to people who have previously been interns.
In other words it can serve the same purpose as an apprenticeship. So, how is that like delivering Focus leaflets? Furthermore, should not a party reward loyalty, dedication and hard-work; people who are committed to it should be encouraged, not discouraged by the lack of financial reward. This is one of those instances where voters have to pay for their democracy and the report on 5 Live rightly points out that the Kelly report didn’t even address the issue of internships. Indeed it recommended no increase in the staffing allowance. Part of the reason unpaid internships continue is that there is a large pool of potential recruits and that is part of the reason it will be hard to change the culture behind unpaid internships.
I have no doubt that most MP’s genuinely would remunerate interns if they were able too (and that is certainly my experience). However, since it is an issue that effects more than peoples lives but is part of the crisis of representation within politics it is one that needs to be addressed.