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Nadine Dorries Suspended Over I'm A Celebrity

Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent
6 November 2012

Maverick MP Nadine Dorries has been suspended from the Conservative Party after travelling to Australia to take part in TV's I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here.

The party announced that new chief whip Sir George Young had withdrawn the whip from the Mid Bedfordshire MP and wants to see her as soon as she returns to Westminster.

But that may be some time. Filming of the show lasts for the best part of a month, meaning she is unlikely to be back until after the show ends on December 6.

That means she is likely to miss the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on December 5, and debates and votes on the EU budget in which she would have almost certainly have been among the Tory rebels.

Senior party sources told Sky News the reason she was being suspended was because of concerns that she not be able to carry out her parliamentary and constituency business while she is away.

The outspoken Mrs Dorries, nicknamed "Mad Nad" by Labour MPs, has been a constant source of annoyance to the Tory leadership for many months.

Although she has earned respect from MPs for her serious campaigning on issues like abortion, her vitriolic attacks on David Cameron and George Osborne have incensed the Tory leadership.

She branded the Prime Minister and Chancellor "arrogant, out of touch posh boys" who didn't know the price of a loaf of bread.

The Prime Minister, in turn, angered her by claiming she was "frustrated" when she asked a hostile question about Nick Clegg and the Coalition during Prime Minister's Questions. He later apologised.

Many MPs will believe the Tory leadership has been waiting for her to overstep the mark once too often and looking for an excuse to suspend her.

If her suspension were to continue until nearer the next general election, due in 2015, she would be unable to defend her leafy suburban seat, where she had a healthy majority of 15,152 at the last election.

Announcing her suspension, a Conservative spokesman said: "George Young has suspended the whip from Nadine Dorries. He will have an urgent meeting with her when she gets back.

"The concern is that she will not be doing parliamentary or constituency business in the meantime."

Many MPs believe Mrs Dorries has deliberately courted controversy after believing her constituency was to disappear in boundary changes at the next election.

But that now looks unlikely to happen, as Lib Dems are set to vote against cutting the number of parliamentary constituencies from 650 to 600.

Her suspension follows widespread criticism of her decision to take part in the ITV programme.

Her constituency chairman said he was unaware of her involvement in the show, and Home Secretary Theresa May said she believed an MP should be doing their job in their constituency and in Parliament.

Another Tory MP, Sarah Wollaston, said she should resign as an MP if she wants to become a celebrity instead.

"I am horrified," she said. "We have a serious issue in Parliament with under-representation of women. This sends out entirely the wrong message about why women are important in Parliament.

"I think it makes us look ridiculous and it brings politics into disrepute. Nadine should decide whether she wants to be a celebrity, and if so - if she wants to be a celebrity - in my view she should resign.

"She needs to consider what she wants to do and if actually she wants to do a serious job - which is about representing her constituents - she needs to be doing that here in Westminster, not in Australia.

"I think there are also issues about taking a kind of second salary. If she were going to be doing that in Australia, certainly that should all be returned to the taxpayer. One tweet I've had says it all: 'I hope she has to eat a lot of insects'."

Mrs Dorries, who earns more than £65,000 as an MP, has flown out to Brisbane to prepare for the show. She also stands to pick up a fee for appearing on the programme.

She justified her decision to take part by saying: "I'm doing the show because 16 million people watch it. If people are watching I'm A Celebrity, that is where MPs should be going. I'm not going in there to upset people, but I have opinions."

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