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Rene Kinzett

Conservative coffers boosted in “sale of opportunities” to kids of the super rich

February 13th, 2011 by René Kinzett

Good grief, you couldn’t make it up, could you?

Only two months ago the Government launched its Equalities Strategy, aimed at building a society where no one is held back because of who they are, or where they come from and outlining steps to widen access to the Civil Service by lower-income groups through targeted internships.

Then the fund-raisers at Tory HQ pull the rug from under all the rhetoric by selling exclusive opportunities with top City banks, PR companies and top-title fashion magazines at the “Black & White” party for the super-rich.

I do not know why the sons and daughters of attendees at what was once called the “Winter Ball” need to spend around £3,000 per placement when their own contacts and networks pretty much guarantee the offspring a “vac scheme” in most top companies in any case.

Obviously all parties try to get cash out of the pockets of the super-rich. Tony Blair used to send out Lord Levy to lighten the wallets of City bankers in exchange for promises of “light touch regulation” (you know, the regime that Ed Balls used to be so pleased about) and who can forget Bernie Ecclestone making a huge payment to the Labour Party at the same time that the Blair Government was debating tobacco advertising in sport with an exemption for Formula One racing? Or indeed those holier-than-thou chaps at 4 Cowley Street having to explain their funding deal with a convicted criminal?

I am certainly not getting squeamish about the murky world of political fund-raising and to be frank I’ve turned a blind eye to most of what goes on in that sphere – like not wanting to see laws and sausages being made, I often find it more palatable not to know about how parties make their money.

However, the auctioning of “things that money can’t buy” at the Black & White Ball is a worrying affair. I don’t mind whether a City banker wants to part with £25,000 for a round of golf with the England cricket captain or dinner for 6 at £6,000 at Stringfellow’s (they would have to pay me to partake in that!), but the selling off of “golden opportunities” is something that frankly sticks in my craw. So many organisations that examine social opportunity and indeed Government Departments themselves identify the lack of social networks of the parents in lower-income groups as part of the problem of widening access to top employers and professions. The sale of exclusive opportunities to the already-connected is yet another barrier to social opportunity for those already facing it tough to gain entry to top professions.

How much better would it have been for the Party to combine the need to raise cash from the wealthy with the aims and objectives of the Government’s Equalities Strategy? Take the cash from the bankers on the basis that the placements will be reserved for kids from poorer backgrounds? Wishful thinking? Ok, I’ll dream on.

  1. Tricia Groom Tricia Groom says:

    I saw something similar on ebay last November- about a dozen internships in London being auctioned off -presumably for charity. I do not blame the Tories for this idea – it is market forces. I’m surprised it’s not been made into a reality tv show -oh wait, maybe it has.

  2. René Kinzett René Kinzett says:

    Indeed, but that is private companies/orgs doing it. This is a Party that is in Govt and promising to deal with the lack of opportunity for kids from poorer families – not that Labour did much about it between 97 and 10 though!

  3. Yonmei Yonmei says:

    But this is exactly what everyone would expect the Conservatives to do.

    Is the problem that this is just too public and too obvious and too hard to explain away?

    It’s like David Cameron’s “pride”, the Tory council of Hammersmith and Fulham, which has sold off a public running track to a polo consortium so that the wealthy can ride horses where poor kids used to run: they sold off shelters for homeless people to property developers: the Castle Youth Club, bequeathed “to benefit the children of this area for perpetuity”: shut down by the Tories for a sale that fell through. This is the kind of thing David Cameron thinks you as a Tory are supposed to be “proud” of: denying poor children opportunities the children of the rich get.

    So why worry about this? Is it just too blatant? The City financiers own the Tory party: do you feel they should be a little less obvious about their dominance over Tory politics?

  4. Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

    Great piece! I wonder which bright spark at CCHQ thought of this one. Warsi?

  5. SimonG_1 SimonG_1 says:

    CCHQ’s worst offence is that this fund raiser is bad PR – which in this pathetic world of spin over substance is indeed a high crime. Let the faux outrage and hysterics begin.

    However the fact is that what has been going on for decades has just been made into a news story for a wet Sunday. Money sometimes changes hands for years. More often than not it’s networking between the rich that achieves it.

    You will never legislate against the practice because it goes against human nature. And let’s cut to the chase – if it means that the Tories can afford a slicker marketing strategy and some feet on the ground (something Labour is winning on) then that’s great. Let Tarquin be the office coffee boy for a bit before daddy get’s him that job in the city. So what?

    Forget the hysterics and start asking the bigger questions- what exactly are internships achieving? Are they just cheap unregulated labour? What can be done to provide valuable skills for interns?

    As for “the poor” (what a badge) then internships are the least of our worries. After a decade of Labour mismanagement many can barely function. No aspiration and education focus on the mediocre, Our education system is appalling.

    So as fashionable as jealously fighting “the rich” is let’s not get sidetracked and get the priorities right.

  6. René Kinzett René Kinzett says:

    Simon, we disagree then. As well as seeing this as a PR blunder (which is no small issue in of itself) but there is nothing faux about my outrage on this issue. My post says that I find it odd that rich pay for these opportunities when they have access to networks etc. So if its just a way of raising cash for the Party (a good thing as I say above, although Party funding is a stinking mess) then let’s raise the cash and donate the prizes to organisations who can ensure that these valuable work experience places are given to kids from less well-off backgrounds. These internships are actually very useful and not about coffee making etc, as Steve will tell you gaining a “Vac scheme” is very useful indeed and can lead on (in some cases 75% of those taking part) to permanent positions.

    Internships in general need examining and the Govt Equalities Strategy has some great ideas for using them to widen intake into Civil Service. In terms of unpaid Parliamentary internships, these go to the already connected. When I was at school I wouldn’t have known what an internship was and would never have been able to afford to do one even if I had.

    Nothing fashionable about this issue, it deserves a lot of thinking and design of new ideas to tackle. Over 10 years ago I worked in a body looking into access to higher education and its depressing to see the same arguments still going on with no resolution in sight.

  7. [...] like my blog colleague René Kinzett - who has also written about this issue – I am not naive about the murky world of political fundraising. We all know the kind of [...]

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