Sir Keir Starmer is calling on the prime minister to “get a grip” again – this time over the Nadine Dorries affair with the Conservative MP still drawing her salary more than two months after announcing she was quitting “with immediate effect”.
Nadine Dorries has an extraordinary charge sheet which includes not speaking in the Commons for more than a year, not holding a surgery in her constituency for more than three years (since March 2020), and for announcing she was resigning “with immediate effect” more than 10 weeks ago. Yet she is still there, still silent, still absent, still to officially tender her resignation and still taking her £84,754 per year salary as MP for Mid Bedfordshire – a Conservative seat since 1931 – plus expenses. (How many daughters she is employing as her secretary has been queried since she complained about nepotism at the BBC, seeming to forget that she had employed two of her offspring in her private office – costing the tax payer £80,000 a year. Nice work if you can get it, as Dorries said about those children of people with connections at the BBC.)
Perhaps someone needs to tell the former culture secretary and Sunday Times best-selling-list author what the words “resigning with immediate effect” actually mean.
Brazenly, Dorries is holding on and demanding a parliamentary inquiry into why she was denied her long lusted-after gong in the Lords – as promised by Boris Johnson – before she’ll leave as an MP.
In the meantime she’s ignoring ever mounting calls for her to go as effectively as she’s been ignoring her constituents and duties as an MP.
Dorries has, as Henry Hill the deputy editor of ConservativeHome points out, “stopped doing her job”. At least the one she was elected to do as an MP. That role does not even feature on her X (formerly Twitter) bio anymore. But, her “TV show and column for the Daily Mail do” and the contact given is “for her agent, not her [MP’s] office.”
Would she have those handsomely paid positions if she wasn’t an MP?
Hill writes of the “outrage” caused by Dorries, “leaving her constituents without representation for the most trivial, shabby, and self-interested of reasons.”
That being, of course, not getting her ennoblement to the Lords. But given some of the characters who were honoured in Johnson’s resignation list – receiving lifetime positions in the upper-chamber – Dorries may have good reason to feel put out. But that’s no excuse for her petulance or mitigation for the damage she’s doing.
Hill states that because of parliamentary procedure and rules around the recall of MPs to force a byelection needing sanction from the Commons, “there’s nothing anybody can do about it”.
“Or is there?” Hill immediately asks before revealing the “Commons could, in fact, rid itself of Dorries very easily indeed” by simply passing a motion to expel her.
Labour is turning the heat up on Dorries and the government’s failure to act. Starmer told LBC’s James O’Brien this morning: “I would say to Rishi Sunak, ‘Get a grip of this. This is one of your MPs. Do something about it. Force the issue and get on with it.’”
Starmer’s not the only one. Yesterday a second council in Nadine Dorries’ constituency called for the MP to step down “immediately”. In a formal letter, town mayor of Shefford Ken Pollard tells Dorries: “In your role as the acting member of parliament of Mid Bedfordshire, residents of Shefford feel that, due to your scant interest in your constituency, your aversion to attending local events or services and your lack of a maintained constituency office, the local area has been ‘abandoned’ by yourself.
“Your last spoken contribution in the House of Commons was on 7 June 2022, and your last written question was asked on 20 December 2017.”
Pollard told the MP her “behaviour and actions” as reported by the press, violate the Seven Principles of Public Life (aka the Nolan Principles) adding: “Our residents desperately need effective representation now, and Shefford Town Council calls on you to honour your commitment [to resign with immediate effect made on June 9] and tender your resignation immediately.”
While Dorries effectively quit as MP for Mid Bedfordshire well before her statement what irks is that she is still getting paid for doing nothing and tarnishing the reputation of MPs ever further. There have been so many “bad apples” exposed for all sorts of dishonourable behaviour – not least from the very top of the tree with the example set by erstwhile PM Boris Johnson – that the Westminster barrel has been long ruined.
The litany of U-turns on manifesto promises; the introduction of new laws that were never mentioned in any election campaign; the appointment of cronies and donors to the Lords and public bodies; the reinstatement of ministers forced to resign; and the looting of public finances while public services have been allowed to crumble are mere tips of multiple icebergs showing the extent of the UK’s sham democracy.
It’s not only Nadine Dorries who needs to go. Far more MPs have done far worse – and been awarded promotions for it. A system that enables such is long overdue root and branch reform.