Nadine Dorries Under Critical Scrutiny Over Payments to Daughter

An exchange on Twitter, between a member of the public and Nadine Dorries MP:

why do you refuse to disclose how much your daughter is paid Nadine?I thought all MP expenses where available to the public (1)

Dorries: I don’t. All my staffs salaries are paid by IPSA and listed on their website. (2)

Thanks for the reply Nadine. I saw a tweet which claimed you refuse to disclose your daughters salary.I will check out IPSA (3)

Dorries: Who posted the tweet? (4)

@sunny_hundal Posted Nadine. I read his blog. (5)

Dorries: Thanks. Fiction from him isn’t surprising. She is paid a part time salary, as IPSA have confirmed to press. (6)

It is hard to take Dorries accusing someone of writing “fiction”, given that she previously explained away discrepancies between her expenses claims and information on her blog by stating that her blog was “70 per cent fiction”. She told the Standards Commissioner that she had pretended to be in her constituency more often than she really is in order to “reassure” voters of her commitment; when this afterwards became public and was met with howls of derision, she changed tack and announced that she had disguised her movements on police advice (the Standards Commissioner has shown no interest in chasing up this discrepancy).

However,  the reference to Sunny is typical misdirection from Dorries; Sunny’s Tweet merely directs readers to an article in Bedfordshire on Sunday:

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Agency (IPSA) – the body in charge of monitoring MPs’ expenses – says it will only break down the costs of a representative’s wage bill if their staff earn more than £50,000.

…Mid Bedfordshire MP, Nadine Dorries…, employs daughter Philippa Dorries as an office manager earning up to £39,999 when working full time. BoS understands that 27-year-old Miss Dorries – who also studies law at BPP Law School in London in addition to her role – informs IPSA when she’s at college and then switches to a pro-rata basis on the hours she works.

So, the information is with IPSA, but is bundled in with other expenses – a crucial point Dorries avoids mentioning in her Twitter exchnage. Further:

When BoS contacted Nadine, she said to contact her daughter directly, but Philippa Dorries didn’t comment.

This means that Dorries declined to answer a question from the Bedfordshire on Sunday hack – so she did in fact “refuse to disclose how much [her] daughter is paid”. And with remarkable timing, Dorries is now warning journalists away from her daughters, complaining about a “low life is who watches my daughters Facebook account and keeps ringing the press”.

The story of the payments has now been picked up by the Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Mirror; Dorries writes that:

I love the words ‘up to’ in the press today. They wouldn’t write ‘half of’ would they.

But the press might well have written “half of”, had Dorries made that amount clear to them rather than declining to answer their query. And anyway, the total amount earned is of less interest than the generous pro rata rate. We may also ask what Philippa Dorries’ job actually entails: when someone on Twitter recently accused Nadine Dorries of telling an untruth, she responded with the threat that “My staff have taken a screen shot and reported your tweet to the police.”

It is also worth remembering that Dorries regards IPSA with contempt; her blog includes a photo of her copy of the IPSA guide on a roof adjacent to her office after it had somehow fallen out of her office window: “And there I think it shall stay”, she added, in mockery of the impertinent proles who think she’s accountable to them.

Employing family members wherever possible has the advantage of greater loyalty, thus avoiding awkward situations such as one that was reported in the Sunday Times in 2010:

NADINE DORRIES, the Conservative MP, faces the first expenses complaint of the new parliament after a row about a £10,000 claim she paid to a friend’s company.

Her former Commons researcher, Peter Hand, is writing to John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, questioning whether the claim can be justified.

..Dorries, who last week retained her mid-Bedfordshire seat, claimed the money for an annual report in 2007 on her performance as an MP, and consultancy services, but Hand said he never saw the report or worked on it.

The matter was referred to police, although there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Tim Ireland tracked down a couple of photos of the “report”; it appears to consist of a two-page Word document focusing on Dorries’ activism against abortion, padded out with two large photos of a fetus in the womb. Bedfordshire on Sunday showed little interest in any of this; instead, the paper parroted a line put out by Dorries and her friend that Tim’s investigation of their financial arrangement amounted to a form of “internet intrusion”. The paper has in general tended to be evasive and defensive when asked about its relationship with Dorries, and the latest article is something of a surprise. Perhaps the difference is that the paper in this instance has found out a story for itself, rather than a blogger getting there first.

Many MPs employ relatives; in 2008 Patrick Mercer stated that  he was “happy to declare that he pays his wife a £15,000 salary as his assistant”. Paul Staines tried to make an issue of this in 2010, jumping on a bandwagon of interest in Mercer’s private life following news of an affair; however, this was essentially a token effort by Staines to appear non-partisan, and it didn’t go anywhere.

UPDATE (20 June): Philippa Dorries, who also “didn’t comment” on Sunday, now complains about libel; the Huffington Post reports:

Philippa told the Huffington Post UK: “The allegations that I am paid £39,000 a year whilst at ‘university’ is completely untrue, libellous and defamatory.

“When I am at college, I inform IPSA and my hours and salary are reduced on a pro-rata basis accordingly. I am presently on reduced hours. [£39,999] is the full-time salary…

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has today run a gossip piece about how Philippa Dorries is dating a wealthy Conservative MP; this perhaps explains Nadine Dorries’ complaint about someone watching her daughter’s Facebook account and contacting the press. Dorries’ enemies within the party may be responsible; her populist abuse of David Cameron and George Osborne as “two arrogant posh boys” has done lasting damage to the government, and an account of how Philippa Dorries is seeing someone who “tops up his £65,000-a-year MP’s salary by earning up to £4,000 a month working for his father’s company” should perhaps be read with that in mind.