Dorries Agonistes 2: The Prime Minister

Somewhat alarmingly, it appears that the UK news cycle and political agenda is now being set by Nadine Dorries MP. Writing in the Mail on Sunday (where else?), Dorries warns the prime minister that he will be gone by Christmas:

Despite my comments of last week, in which I described David Cameron and George Osborne as ‘two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’, I hold nothing against ‘posh’ people… But I do have a problem with arrogance. And when arrogance combines with privilege to be the root cause of bad decisions it is not a pleasant sight.

…While Britons scream out for strong policies on law and order, a stable NHS and an in-out referendum on Europe to cut us free from basket-case Southern European economies, Cameron makes gay marriage and Lords reform his  priorities.

…According to the rules of the backbench 1922 Committee, in order for David Cameron’s position as leader to be challenged, the chairman of the committee needs to receive 46 signatures from Conservative MPs to signal a vote of no confidence. 

I would guess that those signatures are already coming in and will reach 46 by Christmas.

This complaint of “arrogance” comes from an MP who allowed her copy of the guide to MP’s expenses to fall out of her office window, and then  as a gesture of contempt posted a photograph of it lying on a nearby roof.

Dorries’ attack drips with personal animosity and her trademark viciousness (for other examples, see here and here), and perhaps marks the low-point of a deteriorating relationship. In February 2011 she wrote of “an excellent one to one meeting with the Prime Minister” at which coffee was served:  “The code is no coffee means bad news”. However, a few days later she mysteriously closed her Twitter account; we may speculate that she had been asked to tone down her public statements to avoid whipping up unnecessary controversy, and that Dorries acquiesced.

This, though, was prior to a Parliamentary debate on abortion counselling, which took place the following September. Dorries had hoped for Conservative support for her proposed amendment, but was disappointed; James Forsyth noted the exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions which has become perhaps her most famous moment:

Dorries, irritated by how Cameron withdrew support for her abortion amendment as soon as the Lib Dems started kicking off, asked the Prime Minister when he would tell ‘the deputy Prime Minister who is boss?’ Cameron replied ‘I know the honourable lady is extremely frustrated’ at which the House descended into puerile laughter. The double entendre appeared unintentional, Cameron seemed slightly taken aback by the House’s reaction at first, but having made it he should have tried to respectfully answer her question rather than just sitting down.

Cameron subsequently sent Dorries a private apology by text message, but this would have simply further confirmed Dorries’ sense of her own self-importance. Previously, Dorries had threatened to derail John Bercow’s position as Speaker through a campaign of media attacks on his personal character (“oily opportunist”); shortly after these attacks ceased, Bercow appointed her to a prestigious advisory body called the Panel of Chairs. The lesson of this perhaps came to mind when the Prime Minister acknowledged that he had made a mistake.

Subsequent to the “frustrated” exchange came the parliamentary debate on her proposed amendment. Her moment in the spotlight did not go well; her rambling and self-regarding discourse embarrassed the amendment’s co-sponsor, Frank Field, who wearily asked, “Does the Hon. Lady accept that she might further her case if she concluded her contribution soon?” A few days later there was a further setback when it was announced that Dorries’ Parliamentary seat may disappear at the next election due to boundary changes. On the plus side, though, Dorries now enjoys extensive media attention as a rent-a-quote “outspoken MP”; hence headlines such as “Tory MP Nadine Dorries urges reform of ‘sexist’ BBC”, and wide publicity given to a Tweet in support of a sexist beer brand in the Commons bar (that one even made it into Chinese translation). Dorries has nothing to lose by self-serving populist outbursts, and much to gain.

However, Dorries’ motives also operate at a higher level; back in 2007 she explained to the War Cry how she had been “converted through an Alpha course”:

‘… I am not an MP for any reason other than because God wants me to be. There is nothing I did that got me here; it is what God did. There is nothing amazing or special about me, I am just a conduit for God to use.’

Dorries has close links with Christian Concern, and her Twitter rhetoric increasingly echos the UK’s newly-assertive Christian Right:

Is the coalition government secretly implementing an anti-Christian agenda? And if so, who is driving it, Cameron and Osborne or the LDs? (1)

Is this the most anti Christian government in history asks @PaulGoodmanCH (2)

Farron, wears Christian badge but NEVER Supported any legislation to reduce abortion.#christianofconvenience (3)

@sunny_hundal To finish, you don’t condem people who advocate killing babies, you don’t attack Islam for executing gay men, but you do attack a Christian woman who believes in corrective therapy, which I don’t by the way. Your bigotry is priceless. (4 and 5)

Dorries discusses gay marriage in a companion article for Conservative Home:

Gay marriage is a policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin [as Lords Reform]. I have yet to meet a gay couple in my constituency or beyond who support it; in fact, the reaction has been quite the opposite. Great Britain and its gay couples don’t live on Canal Street in Manchester, shop in The Lanes in Brighton or socialise at Gaydar in London. Gay couples are no different from heterosexual couples and yet this policy transforms them into political agitators who have set themselves against the church and community. The policy is divisive, unpopular with the public, is tearing the Conservative Party apart and will influence absolutely no one in terms of the way they vote in the future. I won’t dwell on who got the policy into No10 in the first place; however, as I am sure the happy-in-a-civil-partnership Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw would agree, it should never have been given the time of day in the first instance.

A previous piece by Dorries on the subject was quoted by Don Feder in a press release for an upcoming Christian Concern conference on marriage.

This morning, George Osborne attempted to deflect Dorries’ news-leading outburst during an appearance on the Andrew Marr Show. The Telegraph reports:

The public were not concerned about Lord’s reform or gay marriage, explained Mr Osborne but rather they wanted the government to focus its attention on “the economy, the education system, the welfare system, the NHS (and) our police”.

This was a clever attempt to turn Dorries’ complaint back against her: Dorries writes in the Mail that “Cameron makes gay marriage and Lords reform his  priorities”, but Osborne is here saying that these are in fact Dorries’ priorities, since she is the one making an issue of them. Whether this bit of rhetorical judo will work, though, is another matter.

Dorries is not the first Tory MP to have predicted Cameron’s imminent political demise; last November Patrick Mercer (recently discussed by me here) was secretly recorded promising that Cameron would “go in the spring. He’ll resign in the spring”. Alas, Mercer didn’t go into in further details, but instead digressed onto the subject of Ukrainian women (“Ooooh ahhh. They are ­extraordinary. They ARE extraordinary”.).