Nick Clegg the hypocrite?
What a hypocrite Nick Clegg is. A man who snaffled up informal internships set up by family connections is challenging the existence of informal internships in the name of improving social mobility.
That’s the view being pushed hard by the right-wing press this morning. Here’s The Telegraph and the Daily Mail and The Sun in various degrees of moral indignation towards the Deputy Prime Minister’s outrageous behaviour.
But for me this hypocrite accusation doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.
These newspapers, which all profess to be worried about slowing social mobility, argue that Clegg should stop fussing about the advantage that well-connected youngsters from well-off families get when trying to break into the professions and focus his energies instead on improving the state education system and raising the aspirations of the disadvantaged.
In other words they would like Clegg to say something like this:
“Listen up all you poor, socially immobile kids. I myself had significant advantages in getting on in my career from my social and family networks. But rather than challenging those networks and opening up those opportunities for advancement to all youngsters regardless of family background, I’m going to pretend that they don’t exist. Instead my message to you is: work harder and aim higher.”
Surely that would be real hypocrisy. It’s true that by criticising informal internships Clegg is pulling up a ladder which he himself climbed. But he’s pulling up a ladder that benefits a very narrow group of young people. And his intention is to lower down a series of ladders for children who don’t have the advantages he enjoyed by sheer accident of birth.
It seems to me that these newspapers are really complaining that Nick Clegg hasn’t been hypocritical enough. He’s betrayed his privileged social class, which I suspect is his real crime in the eyes of these pseudo-meritocrats.
Incidentally, I enjoyed David Grossman’s report on the subject on Newsnight last night (about 15 minutes in). Dr Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute argued that “regulation” of informal work placements would see “the supply of internships dry up overnight”. But Morna Cook of Universal Music, which pays its interns, had a very different perspective: “We felt it was important to broaden the talent pool. If you don’t pay interns you only really employ people who can afford to work for free. A large number of employees at Universal started as work experience or interns so its successful for interns coming in and us as a company”. I suspect I know which view Adam Smith would have found more convincing.Tagged in: class, hypocrite, internships, meritocrats, nick clegg, privilege, work experience
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