THE row over MPs’ second jobs is growing increasingly acrimonious, and it is hurting both the Government and the image of politics in general.

Some MPs appear to have been unable to see what this debate looks like to the public. The public sees that an MP earns £81,932-a-year, which puts them in the top five per cent of earners in the country and means they take home a sum that most people in the North-East, where the median salary is £27,515-a-year, can barely even dream about.

Then they see that an MP doesn’t even turn up full time to receive that salary, that an MP can disappear off and do other work to earn even more.

In no other walk of life would this be acceptable. It is extraordinary that the Prime Minister should feel the need to assert that “an MP's primary role is, and must be, to serve their constituents and to represent their interests in Parliament". That should be blindingly obvious.

However, MPs may have other little earners, either as a hangover from their previous employment or from a spare time job.

But how do you define “spare time job”? Yesterday, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Berwick MP, and a member of the Government, suggested 15 to 20 hours a week would be acceptable, but that would mean a couple of hours each night and much of the weekend – or it would mean a couple of days out of a 40-hour working week.

Through its mishandling of the Paterson affair, the Government has created a huge issue which may never be satisfactorily resolved, and all the acrimony will continue to harm the reputation of MPs, the majority of whom work extremely conscientiously on behalf of their constituents.