James Forsyth

PMQs: Second jobs, lobbying and ‘obsessive crackpots’

PMQs: Second jobs, lobbying and 'obsessive crackpots'
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Ed Miliband boxed cleverer than David Cameron at PMQs today and came out with a comprehensive points victory. Miliband went, predictably, on the whole issue of second jobs for MPs. Cameron, equally predictably, responded that the Labour proposal wouldn’t deal with MPs being paid Union officials. Miliband then, nimbly, said that he’d be happy to amend it to make it clear that this was banned too at which point Cameron was pinned back on the ropes. He was left trying to make his way through the session with increasingly strident references to the influence that the unions have on the Labour party.

Now, personally, I think Miliband is wrong on the substance. It seems odd to complain that MPs are out of touch and then legislate to cut them off from one of their points of contact with the real world. The House does benefit from the experience that MPs gain from some outside interests, lobbying is—obviously—a different kettle of fish. But in today’s exchanges, he bested Cameron.

Cameron was constrained in what he could say by the realities of the public mood on this issue. But Peter Tapsell, the outgoing Father of the House, is under no such limitations and stood up to warn that if second jobs were banned, then membership of the House would be confined to those who’ve inherited wealth, married it or are ‘obsessive crackpots’ or ‘those who are unemployable elsewhere.’ We would do well to heed his warning.