NO CASH FOR LIB DEM INTERNS AS CENTRAL OFFICE PASSES THE BUCK

JUST days after Nick Clegg made an earnest pledge to improve expenses for the Liberal Democrats’ army of unpaid interns, The Capitalist was amused to see three job ads for internships at the party on the Work for an MP (w4mp) website offering barely a cup of tea.

The “short volunteer opportunity” to work in the offices of Greg Mulholland, MP for the Leeds North West, offers no financial reward at all, while the internship at the offices of Bradford East’s MP David Ward says “some expenses” can be met “by agreement”. And a school-leaver helping out on the local campaign trail for the Lewes Liberal Democrats would presumably want a roof over their head at the end of the working day – but lodgings for the lucky candidate are only “possibly” an option “if required”.

In a jargon-filled display of passing the buck, the party said it could only directly manage internships at the central Cowley Street HQ.

Apparently, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority must regulate expenses for interns at MPs’ offices, and local branches have to make their own rules since they are “legally independent organisations within the federal structure”.

Thanks to the endless layers of red tape, it’s not looking good for Lib Dem interns hoping to receive the minimum wage: even at the central office, anything additional to expenses and travel for the degree-educated workhorses is “unlikely to happen this year” and “only possibly” in 2012, according to a Lib Dem spokesperson.

“In the future, we hope to make sure people get paid, but there is no set timescale,” he said. Don’t hold your breath.

SHARKS ON THE MOVE
THE next set of tenants to move into property developer Gerald Ronson’s landmark Heron Tower have been keeping a rather low profile – mostly because they can’t talk.

At the end of this month, 1,200 fish – chosen to recreate the marine species around Heron Island in the Pacific – will travel from the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth to the gleaming aquarium in the building’s ground-floor lobby, the largest privately owned fishtank in Britain at 12m long and 3.6m high.

The star attractions will be the Bamboo Sharks, which grow to 1,200mm, and Heron is taking their welfare so seriously that not only will the sharks be fed up to three times a day, but Ronson has even put two full-time divers on the company payroll to monitor their living conditions 365 days a year.

Let’s hope Heron’s human tenants receive the same around-the-clock attention.

LIGHTS OUT
HUNDREDS of business delegates were forced to feel their way through a gloomy morning session at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference yesterday, after a power cut plunged the Westminster auditorium into darkness.

“We were going to remind the Chancellor of cuts, but not quite so drastically,” bellowed former BBC presenter and conference chair Sue MacGregor into the darkness.

Yet big names were on their way. Surely the BCC wouldn’t make Chancellor George Osborne and business secretary Vince Cable shout their pledges to the business community in the dark? “We phoned the EDF press office,” an energetic public relations executive reassured The Capitalist. “And in ten minutes there were four men in bright yellow jackets outside.”

The race was on, as BCC director general David Frost projected his voice through the still-electricity-free theatre for his opening comments. “I’ve got a sore throat,” he said. “But I’ll fight through.”

But there was no need to panic. As Osborne appeared minutes later, suddenly there was light, the microphones came alive and the Chancellor was able to inflame the audience with his rhetoric. “This government is unashamedly pro-enterprise,” he roared. “Pro-business and pro-aspiration.” Crisis? What crisis?

MEDIA PIONEERS
IT TOOK Google four years to hit $1bn in revenue and Facebook managed it in three-and-a-half, but elsewhere in the advertising economy, firms are reeling from the end of Labour’s huge advertising budget, which was slashed by the coalition.

However, the message from Nicola Mendelsohn, the first female president of the trade body the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising in her inaugural address at The Savoy, was one of optimism.

As she pointed out to media bosses including Lord Black of Brentwood, executive director of Telegraph Media Group and Channel 4’s chief executive David Abraham, Britain is second-only to Japan in the use of the mobile internet, and it has the fastest-growing smartphone market in the developed world. “We are a pioneering country and we, as an industry, need to rediscover our pioneering spirit,” she claimed.