Kane Emerson is the Leeds University student who revealed centrist Labour MP Chuka Umunna’s ad for an unpaid internship – at his London office.
Umunna issued an explanation – emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX – of his reasons for advertising the unpaid position:
The Leeds University placement is a structured part of politics sandwich-course degrees at the university, and takes place on the strict condition that students receive Student Finance throughout. The scheme, and others like it, are run collaboratively by MPs and universities, and gives students supported work experience as part of their university degree.
In addition to the Student Finance students receive while undertaking a placement, as detailed in the advert, my office will reimburse travel expenses for a student travel card to minimise expenses. I do not and would not offer a long-term placement where a student is not supported and left financially penalised.
Unfortunately, IPSA do not provide additional resources for MPs to recruit interns on a paid basis, though the Parliamentary Labour Party has always argued strongly for them to do so. I strongly believe that interns should be paid and, for that reason, I do not have any unsupported interns working in the office despite the many requests received. For many years, my office has only accepted students undertaking work experience as part of supported university schemes, or short work experience placements from the schools in my constituency.
The ad earned Umunna – who has previously apologised for snobby comments on an ‘elite’ social media site – an elegant but pointed rebuke from party leader Jeremy Corbyn – but what did Kane Emerson make of Umunna’s response? The SKWAWKBOX asked him and he responded:
I’m not happy with it.
Essentially this is the case of an employer expecting a student to take out a student loan to work for them. This wouldn’t be okay for any private business nor should it be in the public sector. Dressing work up as an educational experience is not a sufficient reason for not paying workers a living wage.
Not only is this an MP but it’s an MP that ran on a labour manifesto to ban unpaid internships. Forcing students to take out loans to pay for amazing work opportunities like this discourages poorer students and reinforces politics as a career option for the rich.
It didn’t take a student long to work out the major flaw in Umunna’s carefully-worded excuse for the unpaid offer.
Happily, Labour’s leadership remains quite clear on the matter, as the briefing issued to all MPs on Thursday showed:
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