Cameron and Clegg differ publicly on internship places

David Cameron David Cameron said he had been helped out by family connections

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Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, have disagreed over the way internship placements are handed out.

Mr Cameron told the Daily Telegraph he was "very relaxed" about giving work experience to personal acquaintances, including a neighbour.

But Mr Clegg has criticised the practice as a bar to social mobility.

He said plum internships should not go to people "because of who they know, rather than what they know."

He added: "I'm not relaxed about this at all."

Downing Street played down any hint of a rift between the coalition partners.

'Definite leg-up'

Mr Cameron said Mr Clegg was "trying to make a fair point" when he argued against the practice of giving internships to the children of friends and colleagues.

But the prime minister said he, like Mr Clegg, had been helped out by family connections, with what he called a "definite leg-up internship" at his father's stockbrokers.

"I've got my neighbour coming in for an internship," he said.

"In the modern world, of course you're always going to have internships and interns - people who come and help in your office who come through all sorts of contacts, friendly, political, whatever.

"I do that and I'll go on doing that. I feel very relaxed about it."

Deputy PM Nick Clegg at an AV rally in Norwich Nick Clegg said the awarding of internships should be more transparent and fair

Responding to the comments during a rally in Norwich on Saturday, Mr Clegg said it was not his job to stop David Cameron offering his neighbour an internship.

But he said it was right to "give all young people a fair chance".

"I'm not relaxed about this at all", he said. "I think it's very important to give people a fair chance of getting ahead."

He added: "That doesn't mean parents shouldn't constantly strive to get the best for their children; that's the most natural thing in the world. But let's at least try to get a bit of openness and fairness in the way in which internships are handed out in government and elsewhere."

A Downing Street spokesman said later: "As the prime minister clearly states in the interview, he backs the government's social mobility strategy."

Referring to Mr Cameron's remark that he had taken on a neighbour on an internship, the spokesman said: "The intern mentioned is in his constituency office [in Witney, Oxfordshire], not Whitehall, and is from a local comprehensive school."

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I suppose when I got into politics I was always called the old Etonian David Cameron”

End Quote David Cameron Prime Minister

Gus Baker from pressure group Intern Aware said: "He might think he's giving his neighbour a leg up, but what he's actually doing is pushing down other talented young people who aren't lucky enough to live next door to the PM."

'Extraordinary intervention'

Mr Baker told Radio 4's Today it was indicative of a wider problem of a culture of unpaid internships which was unfair as it excluded those who could not afford to work for free.

"A huge amount of young people are written off because they are not able to access those careers," he added.

BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue says it is an extraordinary intervention by the prime minister on an issue Mr Clegg had attempted to preserve for himself.

A source close to Mr Clegg said he was surprised by the comments and pointed out that from next year the coalition had agreed that all civil service internships would be available through an open and transparent process.

Mr Cameron also said in the interview that he was comfortable with his background.

"I suppose when I got into politics I was always called the old Etonian David Cameron," he said.

"People know who I am. I'm not trying to rewrite my background. I went to a fantastic school; I adored my parents."

Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham condemned Mr Cameron's comments about internships.

"It is outrageous for the Prime Minister to suggest that there is no problem with the rich and powerful helping out their friends," he said, "while others are excluded from getting a head start in life."

He added: "This is just another example of the Tory-led Government kicking away the ladders of opportunity from ordinary families."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    How sad that the man leading a supposed equal society cannot see the hypocrisy in providing high quality internships to people from a privileged position over others.

    I am afraid Cameron displays the typical ideology that many non-Tory voters associate with his party. I hoped he would buck the steroetype but it does appears to still be rich get richer and poor get poorer. Shame on you 'Dave'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Helping friends and family is normal human behaviour. To suggest it shouldn't be is a frankly bizarre position adopted by the envious and the bitter. And this is from someone who attended a 'rough' council school who has enjoyed zero help from anyone. I only wish I had been better connected. Those wanting a leg up would be happy to be given one but don't want anyone else to get one! Envy politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Everyone I know uses contacts as a way to build a platform from which to take off. Several years ago, I myself arranged the work experience necessary to get into medical school through my father. Whilst I have been at university, I have seen many of my friends "network" for later on in their careers. If you don't have the contacts, go and make them; it shows you're really driven to succeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I think David Cameron is defending a valid position, because being connected doesn't necessarily mean coming from a privileged background. Good connections can be formed through volunteer work and campaigning with the parties, and therefore offering an internship to a person already known to the MP could be seen as a reward to the individual who has dedicated their free time to that MP's cause.


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