Nadine Dorries’ constituents are to go unrepresented for a month while the Conservative MP jets off to Australia (on a free business-class flight) to take part in a reality TV show. She will miss the autumn statement, an important piece of government business, in favour of eating slugs and spiders.
The Conservative Party has suspended Dorries from the party whip after she confirmed that she was planning to be absent from parliament. There are also rumours that she may be planning a defection to UKIP, though this is unconfirmed.
Dorries did not inform Conservative whips of her decision to take part in the show. Nor did she tell the chairman of the Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association (he only found out after seeing press cameras outside the Association’s headquarters). One gets a sense that Dorries holds her own party organisation with a degree of contempt.
Dorries has been described as a right-wing conservative whose high profile in the media has led to her being called ‘Mad Nad.’ It is true that Dorries has achieved a certain amount of media notoriety. Her disdain for the social background of David Cameron and George Osborne was widely reported in the media, as were her attempts to reduce the time limit for abortions under the 1967 Abortion Act. Indeed, she has even appeared on Have I Got News for You.
In 2008, Dorries won the The Spectator magazine’s Reader’s Representative Award. She has been an outspoken and independent-minded MP. Parliament, and indeed democracy itself, needs such people. She has ensured that grassroots Conservative viewpoints are heard – notably on the issues of gay marriage and abortion time limits – and been able to bring media attention to less ‘glamorous’ issues due to her high profile.
Unfortunately, this media attention has seemingly gone to Dorries’ head. She views herself, rightly or wrongly, as a celebrity. Dorries now thinks the day-to-day grind of politics beneath her, the usual rules of parliamentary etiquette no longer applying. Dorries is apparently unconcerned by the palpable anger of her constituents over the affair. She apparently equates fame with popularity, and assumes that the people of Mid-Bedfordshire will welcome her when she returns from Australia with a tan and a £40,000 cheque. I suspect that she will get a rude awakening.
As a seasoned media performer, Dorries must have known how unpopular her decision would be. But perhaps that is the point. As Katie Price would probably agree – all publicity is good publicity. Unfortunately, this applies only to shallow, and often talentless, celebrities. This is what ‘Mad Nad’ has become. It is sad that one of parliament’s most vehement free-thinkers should have followed this path.
Dorries will argue that reality TV is a perfect platform to engage the public in the important issues of today. She will be able to put across her views on gay marriage and a whole host of other issues. But, while it is true that more people watch reality TV than PMQs, the extent to which her views will carry any weight is debateable. Why should one take any notice of a person who eats slugs? Is this really an appropriate setting for talking about important and sensitive issues?
When Dorries returns from Australia, she will undoubtedly be a household name. But, despite this fame, she will have lost something far more important – credibility. Dorries accumulated a certain amount of it by being independent and true to her beliefs. Credibility, which is hard won, endures. But celebrity, which is all that Dorries will be left with, is fleeting. Perhaps the nickname ‘Fad Nad’ is more appropriate.
In relation to Dorries remaining in the Commons – if she is a celebrity, get her out of there.