THERE are many contenders for the title of most dispiriting political news of the week, but let’s go with the fact that Owen Paterson, despite being caught in a flagrant breach of the lobbying rules, still chose to plead ignorance and innocence right up till the moment his good friend the PM chucked him under a bus.

It may be, of course, that Boris Johnson caused someone to whisper in his ear about a peerage so long as he went quietly, but even this PM seems to be realising Lord Lobbyist may be an outrage too far.

What this shoddy episode has done has shone a light into the darker corners of MP’s lucrative second jobs. Your gob will not be smacked to learn that the top 10 highest earners from extra-parliamentary “jobs” are all Tories. Clearly grubbing along on a salary north of 80 grand with hefty expenses and many perks on top is just for the little people.

Conservatives are made of more, ahem, entrepreneurial stuff.

LISTED: Richest Tory MPs bring in up to an eye-watering £1.6m each in second jobs

All manner of alibis are advanced for the habit of moonlighting for money. Some medics are said to be providing vital services whilst keeping their skills current and updated. True.

The canny million quid made by former attorney general Geoffrey Cox (below) since he quit that office is a ludicrous sum of money of course, until you factor in the going rate for top barristers. He has made a mint, but arguably could have made a bigger one if he quit parliament altogether, not just when a juicy job came up.

The National:

When he was pulled up for charging 49 pence on expenses for a pint of milk his excuse wasn’t that this was a clear nonsense, but merely that his staff hadn’t grasped the changes since the expenses scandal broke. Presumably, he was happy to endorse 50p claims before.

What I find most egregious, to use the word of the moment, is those former ministers – not all Tories – who use the revolving door at Westminster to become a highly paid adviser to companies with whom they negotiated contracts.

The Ministry of Defence and private health providers are amongst the very worst examples of paying the piper who recently called their tune.

Top of the secondary earnings tree is former PM Theresa May. Now you may find it strange, bordering on insane, for people to shell out tens of thousands to hear her give a speech. When she did that in the Commons the oratorical flourishes were notable only for their absence.

The National: Former PM Theresa May

READ MORE: Keir Starmer urged to make formal complaint to the Met over Boris Johnson

Yet the ruler of Dubai paid more than £100k for the privilege of importing her dulcet tones to the emirates. Even more remarkable, during lockdown she apparently felt it acceptable to charge a knockdown fee of just £45K to watch and listen to her on Zoom.

Now I watch a lot of TV from the Commons, sad anorak that I am. I can only conclude I was elsewhere on the days where her speeches crackled with wit, humour, and consummate phrase-making.

The much-maligned standards commission is due to report to the House before Christmas and will make various recommendations designed to clean up a lot of unsavoury acts.

Let’s trust the Prime Minister does not manage to locate another urgent “previous, longstanding commitment” that afternoon.