Case rates are falling, booster rates are sky-rocketing and Westminster is consumed by the Owen Paterson affair: what more signs are needed that normal life is resuming? And more proof, if needed, was provided by this week's release of the updated Members' Register of Interest, in which under-fire MPs revealed that jet-setting junkets have now resumed.
Some 16 Labour and Conservative MPs were last month flown to Qatar as part of the British-Qatari All Party Parliamentary Group, at a cool cost of some £120,000, paid for by the country's embassy. According to their entries, the MPs were there for discussions on the country's 'humanitarian and political response to the Afghanistan crisis, preparations for the World Cup, workers' rights reform and bilateral relations.' Still, one or two appeared to find time to top up their tans, judging from their appearances in the Commons chamber.
Others enjoying the return of gas-guzzling flights include Flick Drummond, Sheryll Murray, James Gray and James Sunderland who popped over to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of September, courtesy of arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Six days after returning, Sunderland – the Pitbull of international airspace, judging from his Mr Worldwide antics – was heading out to Qatar while Murray was one of three MPs to jet out to San Marino, as part of a total £15,400 worth of hospitality, courtesy of the landlocked republic. Jeremy Hunt meanwhile took four of his family there to collect an award to receive an honour for work on 'strengthening ties between the United Kingdom and San Marino.'
Still, amid the current furore around MPs' second jobs, Sir Geoffrey Cox has magnanimously agreed to do his part. The former Attorney-General has updated his entry to take a pay cut of £68,000 from his current second gig providing legal counsel to Withers LLP, leaving him with just £400,000 for 48 hours work a month, rather than his previous 41. All this should leave him with an extra 84 hours a month to dedicate to his role as an MP. His colleague John Redwood meanwhile gets £48,222 a quarter for an expected commitment of 50 hours a month to chair the investment committee of Charles Stanley.
And he may have lost his UN role within 72 hours, but Matt Hancock's side-hustles aren't done yet. The former Health Secretary has also declared receiving a tidy £2,000 for a 1,152 word op-ed in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. At a rate of £1.73 a word, he must be one of the best paid-writers on Fleet Street. Clearly, selling papers and not lockdowns are his true calling.