Mark Pritchard is vigorously denying the Telegraph splash this morning, which alleges that he boasted of being able to use his political contacts to set up meetings. He says he is consulting his lawyers. But aside from the eventual outcome of this row, it has allowed Labour to reignite the debate about whether MPs should have second jobs anyway, with a Labour party spokesman saying last night that ‘every passing scandal and further investigation only goes to reinforce why Ed Miliband was right earlier this year to call for new rules and new limits on MPs’ outside earnings’.
Miliband made that call in the middle of the Falkirk row as a way of turning the debate about influence on to the Tories, who were very much enjoying attacking the Labour party at the time. Repeating it now, so close to time when the party leaders will need to decide whether or not to back Ipsa’s proposed pay rise for MPs, will spark another row. There is a noble argument for second jobs for parliamentarians as it keeps them in touch with organisations outside the Westminster bubble. And then there is an earnings argument: many MPs earn far more than their basic £65,000 salary through those outside interests and this system has been one method of keeping the basic pay down. It’s not uncommon for MPs agitating for a pay rise to admit that really they earn a great deal more from their second jobs anyway. If that route were closed down or severely limited, the clamour for even more money would grow louder.