Westminster, Privilege and Unfair internships

The New Statesman has a story about unpaid internships in the British Parliament. And there are a lot of them.

Sonnex was one of the estimated 450 revolving interns working in parliament. Together, they prop up our democracy by providing as many as 18,000 hours of free labour a week, saving MPs an estimated £5m a year in labour costs.

Their angle is the unfair advantage given to those who can work for free, which is probably of primary importance when it comes to access to political power. It is a situation that could be about to change.

In October, the Speaker, John Bercow, acknowledged that if interns were doing regular work and regular hours, then minimum-wage legislation should apply. In its investigation into MPs’ expenses, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority supported the Speaker’s statement, reiterating that interns should be paid the minimum wage.

That could spell trouble for the MPs. I wouldn’t mind having them change their way to do the right thing, rather than giving a bad example.


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