Daily catch-up: MPs’ outside earnings, and putting the uh? in luvvie

Plus a swimming submersible, an anonymous source and another picture of old London

1. I haven’t used one of these for two days: another view of old London via Sir William Davenant. This is a prospect of the Thames c.1742, showing the building of Westminster Bridge, with Westminster Abbey, which used to have a spire. Painting by Samuel Scott.

2. I don’t feel strongly about MPs earning money on top of their public salary, so I felt Ed Miliband’s attack at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions was all rather beside the point. An MP’s salary of £67,000 is, as Rachel Reeves said, enough for a “comfortable” life. But I do not feel it should be an urgent priority to stop Tristram Hunt, my colleague at Queen Mary, University of London, from teaching.

What seemed most peculiar, though, was that the subject is not a clean win for Labour. Yes, Miliband won PMQs – David Cameron admitted that by the increasingly desperate way he said “the unions the unions McCluskey”. But beyond that Gordon Brown is the top earner from outside sources even if most outside earnings go to Conservatives. 

As Daniel Finkelstein argued in The Times yesterday (pay wall), if you can’t campaign on the economy, you have to find something else, but it needs to be a simple message on which your party has a clear advantage:

“The strange thing is that with the NHS, Labour has a ready-made issue that can work. They haven’t turned their position into a compelling theme or laid the groundwork and this makes it much harder. But nonetheless they enjoy a strong lead on the NHS, people care about it and the Tories can’t neutralise it.

“Yet to be successful, they have to be relentless. Particularly having started so late. And they just aren’t. Their current behaviour, frankly, is baffling.”

3. Quotation of the Day:

“The question of whether machines can think is as relevant as the question of whether submarines can swim.”

Edsger Dijkstra (via Ian Leslie and Vaughan Bell).

4. “It’s going to be like 1848 all over again.” Putting the uh? in luvvie: Greg Wise, Emma Thompson’s husband, in the Evening Standard:

“I want to stop paying tax, until everyone pays tax ... I have actively loved paying tax, because I am a profound socialist and I believe we are all in it together. But I am disgusted with HMRC. I am disgusted with HSBC. And I’m not paying a penny more until those evil bastards go to prison.

“Em’s on board. She agrees. We’re going to get a load of us together. A movement. They can’t send everyone to prison. But we’ll go to prison if necessary. I mean it.”

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5. This, from yesterday’s New York Times (right) via Robert P Baird, is one of the best variants on the American journalists’ practice of giving a reason for quoting an anonymous source.

6. And finally – the tried and tested are best – thanks to Lynne Murphy for this:

“Why do you see big bags of white sugar everywhere but not big bags of brown sugar?”

“Because Demerara.”

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