Last updated at 7:51 AM on 6th April 2011
Embarrassing: Clegg was forced to admit that his father 'had a word' with a friend to get him his first of three internships at a Finnish bank
Nick Clegg's scathing attack on inequality of opportunity was branded ‘total hypocrisy’ last night.
As he unveiled a drive to improve social mobility, it emerged his millionaire father had secured him the internship that launched his career and a titled family friend helped get him his first proper job.
The LibDem leader was also forced to make a humiliating apology for employing unpaid interns in his own office, while criticising the practice in public.
There was further embarrassment for Mr Clegg as it emerged that the LibDems may not even have paid expenses to some young people.
The party hurriedly brought in new guidelines yesterday to ‘put our own house in order’.
But the damaging revelations overshadowed the launch of the Government’s flagship social mobility strategy, where Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg criticised the ‘sharp-elbowed’ middle classes for their stranglehold on the internship system.
He said: ‘Unfair, informal internships can rig the market in favour of those who already have opportunities.
‘We want a fair job market based on merit, not networks. It should be about what you know, not who you know.’
But last night it emerged that the young Mr Clegg secured the first of his three internships only following the intervention of his father Nicholas, chairman of the United Trust Bank. LibDem sources confirmed that Mr Clegg’s father had ‘had a word’ with a friend at a Finnish bank to secure his son a work placement.
The Deputy Prime Minister worked at the Postipankki Bank in Helsinki for a brief period between leaving the £30,000-a-year Westminster School and starting at Cambridge University.
He later took another internship at a magazine in New York run by the Left-wing journalist Christopher Hitchens, before taking another at the European Commission in Brussels.
He got his first full-time job working for former European Commissioner Leon Brittan after being recommended by former Tory foreign secretary Lord Carrington, a friend and neighbour of the Clegg family. Mr Clegg’s biography on the Cabinet Office website makes no reference to his education at one of Britain’s top public schools or the internships that helped launch his career.
'Hypocrisy': Mr Clegg spent today talking to pupils from the Globe Academy in Southwark, south London, about careers
Labour MP John Mann branded Mr Clegg a ‘total hypocrite’ and accused him of closing off opportunities for working class youngsters by trebling university tuition fees to £9,000 a year.
Mr Mann said: ‘It is total hypocrisy and really desperate for him to attack internships now.
‘His policies are holding down social mobility in this country but he enjoyed all the advantages of family connections himself.’
Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman said Mr Clegg had no right to ‘pontificate’ on social mobility.
She also highlighted the Conservative Party’s recent Black and White Ball, when internships at top companies were auctioned off. Addressing Mr Clegg in the Commons, she said: ‘Next he will be foxtrotting down to the Tory party’s fundraising ball, auctioning City internships for the children of the highest bidder. Is that not the Government’s idea of social mobility?’
Ben Lyons from Intern Aware, which campaigns for equal access to work placements, said: ‘Nick Clegg has hired unpaid interns in the past and when Intern Aware led an investigation into interns in Parliament, LibDem MPs were the worst offenders.
Mr Clegg's father, Nicholas, was chairman of United Trust Bank when he 'had a word' with a friend to get his son an internship. The pair are pictured here together in a family snap
‘Rather than bizarrely criticising the young people lucky enough to be “sharp-elbowed and well-connected”, Mr Clegg should be working to end unpaid internships across the whole economy.’
Mr Clegg yesterday admitted he had benefited from a system that was ‘wrong’. Speaking at the launch of the social mobility strategy he said: ‘I am not the slightest bit ashamed of saying that we all inhabited a situation that was wrong.’
In a statement later, he added: ‘I was fortunate enough to benefit from the experience of internships. I do not deny I have been lucky but the plans I set out today will help others from a much wider range of backgrounds to get the same opportunities I enjoyed.’
In many professions, such as accountancy and the law, a period working unpaid as an intern can greatly increase the chances of getting a job.
But the new social mobility strategy criticises the system, saying it is dominated by the middle classes who use their connections to win places for their children.
The strategy also urges more companies to pay interns at least the minimum wage in order to attract youngsters from poorer backgrounds.
In a joint article Mr Clegg and the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith wrote: ‘There are millions of parents working hard to make the best life possible for their children.’
But they added: ‘We want a society in which success is based on what you know, not who you know or which family you are born into.’
Last night the senior Tory MP David Davis said the Coalition’s policies were likely to make social mobility even worse. Mr Davis, who grew up on a council estate, said the Government’s new free schools were likely to be dominated by middle class students who already enjoy an advantage in the education system.
He urged ministers to bring back the academic selection which died out with the abolition of grammar schools in most parts of the country.
By SAM GREENHILL, TAMARA COHEN and KATHERINE FAULKNER
Jonny Medland who volunteered for Nick Clegg, criticised the Lib Dem leader for failing to pay the volunteers which the party relies on
Unpaid office interns told last night how MPs treat them as slave labour and branded Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats the worst offenders.
One was sent to collect laundry, while another was ordered to organise a politician’s own birthday party.
For many politically minded graduates, a stint doing ‘work experience’ for an MP has long served as a useful foot in the door at Westminster.
But some now say the practice has slipped into exploitation, and employment lawyers warn that politicians may be in breach of minimum wage laws.
Last night, Jonny Medland, who volunteered for Nick Clegg over the summer of 2007, criticised the Lib Dem leader for failing to pay the volunteers which the party relies on.
Mr Medland, a 23-year-old student at Oxford, drafted articles for the media, dealt with constituency business and researched issues for speeches.
He said: ‘It definitely wasn’t just making the tea, it was the sort of work you should be paid for.
‘If internships aren’t paid, then you make them impossible for people who don’t live near London or who can’t afford to work unpaid for several months. This isn’t “volunteering”, or “work experience”, it’s simply unpaid labour.’
The new Lib Dem policy is to offer interns a Tube ticket and a sandwich – but they are still not paid.
What began as ‘volunteering’ for an MP has become, for many of the 450 interns currently working in Parliament, a full-time job.
Many Parliamentarians have recently placed adverts for unpaid internships.
New Labour peer Baroness Worthington advertised in January for a ‘voluntary position’ with the criteria that the suitable candidate must ‘be energetic and like children!’
Gushing about a ‘fantastic learning opportunity’, it went on: ‘Bryony recently became a mother for the first time. She is looking for someone to act as her assistant as she juggles... three important roles.’
As one intern remarked: ‘Is she looking for an unpaid childminder?’
Even Iain Duncan Smith, co-author of the Government’s social mobility strategy, seems to be at it.
The Centre For Social Justice, which he founded in 2004, is currently offering 11-month ‘voluntary internships’ on its website. Volunteers, who should have a degree graded 2.1 or higher, are given lunch expenses and a London travelcard.
Another intern, speaking on condition of anonymity, said financial straits forced him to work as a waiter in the evenings to make ends meet.
He said: ‘I come from a very low-income family. Every day, straight after Parliament, I work as a waiter – so I work 9 to 5 in Parliament and then 5.30 to 11.30 at night.’
A second intern, who also works as a waiter, said that when his standard of work fell because of tiredness, ‘they asked me to leave’.
Campaign group Intern Aware says interns should be paid at least the minimum wage, currently £5.80 an hour for anyone aged 22 and older.
Founder Ben Lyons said interns were tired of having to fund themselves while they licked envelopes and dealt with angry constituents.
He said: ‘It is incredibly widespread in Parliament, and every party is guilty, although the Lib Dems are by far the worst.
‘We know of one MP who has his office stuffed with ten interns on a rolling basis.’
The Lib Dems are thought to employ at least two dozen interns at their party headquarters.
CLEGG UNABLE TO DETAIL COST OF AV VOTE
Mr Clegg faced repeated questions on the cost of AV during yesterday's Deputy Prime Minister's Question session but could not provide answers
Nick Clegg was yesterday unable to tell MPs how much next month's referendum on changing the voting system for Westminster elections will cost the taxpayer.
Despite repeated questioning in the Commons, the Deputy Prime Minister merely repeated it would be 'similar' to the cost of the general election. The Government had set aside £120million for the next general election, he said.
He dismissed as 'complete and utter fiction' claims that the cost of asking people if they wish to adopt the alternative vote (AV) would be as high as £250million, described by one Labour MP as Mr Clegg's 'AV vanity project'.
Mr Clegg said at Deputy Prime Minister's Questions: 'The cost of holding a referendum is similar to the cost for holding a general election.
'The Government has been very keen to be as cost efficient as possible and that is why the referendum is being held on the same day as other elections.'
Labour's Ian Murray asked: 'Do you think the spending of up to £250 million on your AV vanity project is a good use of public funds?
'Does your continued leadership of your party depend on a yes vote?'
Mr Clegg replied: 'This £250million figure is complete and utter fiction. It is fiction.
'This Government has set aside £120 million for the cost of the next general election.
'If I understand it correctly your fictional figure has come from the assumption that we will be using electronic counting machines for which this Government has no plans whatsoever.'
The DUP's Nigel Dodds (Belfast N) asked: 'You seem very reluctant to actually spell out the precise cost so could you tell us, how much is it going to cost?'
To increasingly loud heckling from Labour MPs, Mr Clegg said: 'The cost of the referendum will roughly be the cost of every general election.'
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Isn't the entire platform of any business course the mantra of networking, networking, networking? This US mantra will have to be substantially changed across the world to fit Clegg's new world vision! It's funny to hear a politician saying that parents will not be able to help their children in the future when politicians across the parties are usually the worst at using their 'connections' to gain ever more power for themselves and their siblings/children! Tony Blair's daughter has got her leg in in Strasbourg, no doubt 'helped' by her 'influential' Dad, Tony, the Bliar. And do we even have to mention Mandelson? If we will no longer need to network, then we will no longer need to go to school or to university either. It is very interesting that the number of self-made success stories are almost never mentioned in these kinds or articles. Education is more about indoctrination now than innovation. Innovation is best left to those with the LEAST amount of outside influence!
- Business ethos?, Nothing better to attack, UK, 06/4/2011 16:14
It dosnt matter which party gets in, they are all full of promises to us when they need our votes, but promises are like pie crust easily broken, they think they are above the law you pat my back and I will pat yours,
- Jenny D, Ipswich suffolk, 06/4/2011 16:11
I honestly do not think that ANY of the present crop of politicians got their job solely on merit! NONE of them have even learnt the basics of what holding office is all about - representing the electorate's BEST interests! No doubt Ralph Miliband gave his boys a gigantic 'leg-up' up the Marxist ladder, most of the Labour pollies have either been in bed with each other or with their pals in the media or been sent on exclusive visits to hand-picked US institutions to be groomed for service in destroying our once proud nation. And NO-ONE gets into power in either Britain or the US without some kind of connection to the myriad SECRET GROUPS, SOCIETIES and ORGANISATIONS which have been controlling our nations for the past 300 YEARS! Only when we are finally told the TRUTH about the actions and plans of the higher echelons of the Freemason Society, the Bilderberg Group and other similar organisations which all have world control in their sights, will we know the REAL path to power
- What next?, Election pledges, UK, 06/4/2011 16:06
Makes me laugh, this idiot is so up himself he believes that he will be voted back in as MP in Sheffield, like I keep saying a lot of the mainstream party MP's are in a comfort zone they believe the next election will be a shoe in for them. About time the people of this great country woke up and vote for change, kick out Conservative(which I voted for) kick out labour and kick out Lib Dems they are all the same, vote to get your country back and stop these idiots doing their own thing. Clegg will then soon be asking Daddy to get him another job.. Useless idiot.
- popi25, stockton on tees, 06/4/2011 16:04
I don't understand why he is being called a hypocrite. He can see that it is an unfair system and that it gave him an advantage above others. What would make him a hypocrite is if he pulls strings for his children, until that time he can't be judged.
- Daisy, Worcs, 06/4/2011 15:59
Folks, trouble is You voted this liar in......(!)
- alan, beverley, e yorks, 06/4/2011 15:57
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