by Sophie Lambert-Russell
Almost lost in the swirl of the US election has been one of the more bizarre British political stories of recent months.
Yesterday Nadine Dorries was temporarily suspended from her role as MP for Mid Bedfordshire after it emerged she has decided to take part in the reality TV show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, apparently without consulting the Tory high command.
This decision which has been characterised by her constituency chairman Paul Duckett as “unusual” – a euphemism on a par with Sir Humphrey calling a ministerial decision “brave” – has provoked an unprecedented level of criticism among the public, journalists and MP’s across the board.
The general consensus is that Dorries has abandoned Britain in the pursuit of her own fame, and the Conservative press office has failed to come up with an alternative, as members of her own party are among the most vocal of opponents.
Chief whip Sir George Young stated that Dorries would have to “explain herself” on her return which makes David Cameron sound like a head teacher in charge of a bunch of naughty school children rather than professional MP’s, and is yet another blow for the party’s already damaged reputation.
The question is, will gentle Sir George allow her back into the party when she returns from her Australian jaunt?
Although Tim Montgomerie, editor of Conservative Home has a point when he argues that Dorries could “present an image of a Tory MP that defies some of the popular preconceptions and caricatures” now is not the time to do it.
Dorries has a responsibility to her constituents and her party to carry out the job she was elected to do. Her involvement in the show could keep her away from her constituency for up to a month and as of yet there has been no talk of suspending her pay or who will carry out her duties in her absence.
This is frankly outrageous.
In addition to the fact that she could be paid up to £40,000 to appear on the show, the taxpayer is expected to continue paying her wage when she is very clearly forsaking her job in order to boost her personal profile.
Dorries has said she intends to use the programme as a platform to reach the public and raise awareness about issues such as a 20-week abortion time limit, on which she has been vocal on in the past. However Political Scrapbook notes that this plan will never reach the public as the communications act 2003 sets out the legal requirements for impartiality which Ofcom states programmes must abide by.
Nadine Dorries’ near unique combination of ignorance of broadcasting law and dereliction of democratic duty make it almost impossible to conceive of how she will explain her actions away on her return. If she somehow manages to inveigle her way back into the Conservative party it will be a depressing testament to their electoral desperation.
Unusually the prime minister has stayed quiet on this issue, only choosing to say “Nadine Dorries can speak for herself on the issue.” However as it is well known that there is no love lost between the two I am sure he, as it seem the majority of are, is looking forward to the prospect of Dorries eating a kangaroo testicle.
Let’s hope for the sake of her abandoned constituents, and the general standards of parliamentary conduct, Cameron finds some courage to do more than just snigger at her bush tucker trials, and fully hold her to account, on her return.
Sophie Lambert Russell is a Labour activist