Saturday, 10 December 2011
Gummer, interns and knives!
Ipswich Spy led in the local blogging world with a story that first came to prominence in The Daily Mail (so even though it seemed like a story attacking the Tories - I had to check the facts as it came from the Daily Fail).
The story was about a former intern of Ben Gummer who was caught with 2 knives in his bag as he went to hand in a petition to Nick Clegg as part of a delegation from the Oxford University Conservative Association.
The post by Ipswich Spy - here - concentrated on the fact that Henry Evans had escaped with a caution and that Ben Gummer had made a number of statements both in the Evening Star and in Parliament on stiffer sentences for those caught with knives.
Ipswich Spy then declares they are then surprised that Mr Evans escaped with a caution after what Mr Gummer had said. But of course whatever Mr Gummer or any politician tells us it is the police and the legal system who should decide what happens. Reading further into the story it becomes obvious that Mr Gummer employed Henry as an intern after he had been caught with the knives.
I decided to ask Mr Gummer his thoughts on the matter and also asked him did he know of the caution before he employed Mr Evans. Mr Gummer said he would not discuss Mr Evans as it was improper to comment on someone who he had employed as it would be improper for me to comment on a pupil who may have come under my charge. I understand that but as Mr Evans was over 18 not sure that argument adds up. Mr Gummer is only being asked the same questions as Mr Cameron is over Mr Coulson. Like Mr Cameron, Ben believes in giving people a second chance.
I agree with Ben that the sentencing should be left for the Police and the judiciary but politicians need to remember when they are quoted on sentencing or punishments for knife crime that it will then surprise the public when someone who seems to have treated quite leniently by the police is then employed by Mr Gummer, let alone allowed to work in Parliament.
But what interested me about the story is the use of interns, now after asking Mr Gummer it seems Mr Evans was employed on more of a work experience type scheme than as an intern and possibly would have received expenses from Ben.
But I feel it is wrong that MP's uses interns, they should employ and pay people a decent wage or possibly offer apprenticeships. Interns seem to be only those who can afford to live and work in London and therefore come from a more privileged background. Labour and Lib Dem MP's are also as guilty as the Tories for employing interns. But it seems the Tory Party leads on the number of interns employed.
Guido Fawkes - the Tory blogger is running a campaign against such misuse of the system and states the case of Tory minister Jeremy Hunt as Guido puts it; Multi-millionaire Jeremy Hunt, Cabinet minister's salary £134,565, paid himself £2 million bonus last year. Total pay to 7 interns: £0.00.
The Tories are recorded to have employed at least 125 unpaid interns in the last year. A number will do this so they can say to their constituents “look how low my expenses are?”
Mr Gummer informs me he has employed a number if interns and as he has not got a huge budget, he only pays expenses to those who if they did not have that money would find themselves excluded from looking at how an MP works.
Mr Gummer states he also gives priority to those from Ipswich, I am pleased to hear this as the ‘Evans – knife’ story concerned me because it seems that Mr Evans is an ‘old boy’ of Ben’s former Public School in Kent. Now I expect this last sentence will be seized on by the Tory bloggers, highlighting the fact that I work in a Public School. I understand how the ‘old boy’ network operates but possibly Ben should have put a good word in for Mr Evans with a Kent MP and offered the place to an Ipswich resident – whether they went to Ipswich School or Chantry.
Now Ben may state that he chose the best candidate! I hope not as the Chair of the Oxford University Conservatives stated that Mr Evans was probably saved from jail because he is stupid! You do wonder why someone at one the best universities in the world goes to London to see the Deputy PM, with 2 knifes in his bag, that he had put in there on a school trip to France a number of years ago!
In conclusion, I accept that people should have a second chance and am not concerned that Mr Gummer employed Mr Evans, It does emphasize the point though that when a politician issues a quote in a paper that he must remember that it could come back to bite them.
I am also happy that Ben allows young people to work with him in Westminster to get work experience, but let’s call it that then – rather than an internship.
Interns should be stopped, it should be an apprenticeship (paid) at least.
Choosing those for work experience, where possible they should come from your own constituency but if not they should be at least someone who is going to offer something to Ipswich residents rather than the class clown from your old school.