The Diary: A vacancy for one of the well-connected brigade?


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The Independent Online

Senior members of the government used strong words back in April about employers who invite interns to work for long periods without pay, which may provide useful work experience for kids whose parents can subsidise them, but shuts out all the others.

As Nick Clegg put it: "For too long, internships have been the almost exclusive preserve of the sharp-elbowed and the well-connected. Unfair, informal internships can rig the market in favour of those who already have opportunities."

The Deputy Prime Minister's words were re- inforced by the Tory party chairman, Baroness Warsi. "Many talented young people miss out simply because they lack the necessary contacts or face financial barriers when internships are unpaid," she warned.

None of this appears to have got through to the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, who has advertised for an intern to work in his constituency office in Rickmansworth "for a minimum of 6 months".

Under the heading "salary" the advertisement is unambiguous: "None, but reasonable travel expenses will be paid."

One of Mr Gauke's ministerial responsibilities is overseeing HM Revenue and Customs, who wrote a letter in December to warn employers involved in London Fashion Week not even to think about taking people on for anything below the national minimum wage.

The pressure group Intern Aware has now reported Mr Gauke to his own department, via the HMRC Pay and Work helpline.

He defended the advertisement, telling the BBC: "It's advertising for a post for volunteers. Lots of people want to do it. It's good experience.

"It involves visiting my local Conservative Association, getting some experience of Westminster.

"I think that's perfectly reasonable and those that have had the experience of working there have enjoyed it and found it very good experience."

Boris finds an audience

Boris Johnson has a new Twitter feed to promote the campaign for his re-election, which already has over 253,000 followers. If you are wondering how anyone, even a political star of Boris's magnitude, can gain that many followers almost overnight, the answer was revealed yesterday on the Liberal Conspiracy website. For years, the Mayor's office has built up the politically neutral @mayoroflondon feed, and Mr Johnson has simply taken it over.

Brothers with aknowledge of visas

In an interview with yesterday's Times, the mega-rich Hinduja brothers have delivered a few home truths for the British government about obstacles in the way of improved trade with India.

"Do you see how much difficulty they are creating over visas?" Gopichand Hinduja exclaimed.

The Hindujas can be said to have specialist knowledge of political problems that arise from the granting of visa.

In 2001, Peter Mandelson was accused of pushing through an application for British citizenship from Srichand Hinduja, Gopichand's brother, as a thank you to the brothers for sponsoring the Millennium Dome to the tune of £1m.

Two subsequent inquiries failed to prove that Mandelson had done anything wrong, but the political fallout forced him to resign from the Cabinet.

Yates of the Yard strikes again

Remember John Yates, aka "Yates of the Yard"? He was the Assistant Commissioner of the Met who spent seven months running the highly publicised "cash for peerages" investigation, set off by a complaint from the SNP, from which no prosecutions resulted.

He also handled the 2009 inquiry into the original police investigation into the News of the World phone-hacking allegations and "found it to be satisfactory".

It is roughly three months since Yates of the Yard moved to Bahrain to oversee the reforms of the Bahrain police service. It was hoped that Bahrain's civil rights record would improve on his watch.

Yesterday in Geneva, Robert Colville, spokes- man for the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, announced that after a series of ominous reports coming from inside Bahrain, a team is being sent there to look into "worrying reports of the disproportionate use of force by Bahraini security forces."