A row over internships has upset this unfeasibly perfect spring day. The Prime Minister
has given an interview to the Telegraph in
which he contradicts Nick Clegg’s view that internships should be open to more than "the
Old Boys". He says:
“I’ve got my neighbour coming in for an internship. In the modern world, of course you’re always going to have internships and interns — people who come and help in your
office who come through all sorts of contacts, friendly, political, whatever. I do that and I’ll go on doing that. I feel very relaxed about it.”
There is a split, but I suspect it’s a calculated one. Tim Montgomerie writes in this morning’s Independent that Cameron
should woo the Tory grass roots as the local election race accelerates to its climax. On cue, Cameron’s Telegraph interview is calibrated to his party’s core constituencies:
1) He claims he’s in favour of the sharp-elbowed middle classes. The government’s free schools agenda is a case in point. Aspirational parents can set up their own
schools and manage its curriculum and teaching staff. See Toby Young passim for further details. The
expansion of academies, Cameron says, also favours the middle classes.
2) He throws great joints of red meat to the Tories throughout the interview. Despite being in a coalition, he has ‘managed to get’ welfare reform and an immigration
cap for Tory voters.
3) He makes a blatant attack on the ‘contemptuous Lib Dems’ of lore. He asks Royston Smith of Southampton Council if “we can get a few Right-wing Lib Dems over to
us? Coalition’s working well. Quietly deprive the Lib Dems of their seats?”
4) He also turns to the romantic/paternalistic wing of the party by invoking compassionate conservatism. “I’m a one-nation Conservative. The country is going through
some very difficult times and it’s important that you try and protect the poorest.”
All of this allows him to assert confidently that Conservative supporters "have every reason to think this government is on [their] side." His views on internships are genuine, but
they’re also craft.
PS: The neighbour Cameron refers to is understood to be the daughter of a farmer in his constituency, educated at a local comprehensive; tweedy perhaps, but certainly not a
toff. Contacts do not necessarily imply gilded upbringing, that seems to be Cameron’s point.