Magazine article The Spectator

The Prodigal Daughter

Magazine article The Spectator

The Prodigal Daughter

Article excerpt

Nadine Dorries is back in the Conservative party fold - but will she be the first Tory/Ukip candidate.

It's not often you see Tory MPs celebrating anything, but on Monday a bunch of them were packed into an office high in Portcullis House to toast the rehabilitation of Nadine Dorries. Last autumn the Mid-Bedfordshire MP was suspended from the party after appearing on the reality TV show I'm a Celebrity. . . Get Me Out of Here!

For six months she has been in limbo, unable to call herself a Tory. Last week, she was allowed back into the club. We met in the House of Commons after her bustling 'Return of the Prodigal Daughter' reception.

Her fellow Tories, she says, are pleased she's returned. Every day, she's accosted by MPs and staffers keen to welcome her back into the fold. 'I was walking along from the car park to here and MPs were coming up and kissing me, ' she says. 'It's just such a lovely feeling.'

The prodigal is back, but she isn't repentant. In fact, Dorries is insistent that speaking her mind is one of her key selling points.

'Look, this is who I am, ' she says. 'Who I am is authentic and I don't have this filter that filters out everything that's human or everything that's funny or emotional or instinctive and what comes out of the other side of the filter is the professional politician. I was born without that filter.' That honesty makes her popular not just with backbenchers, who tend to be very fond and protective of Dorries, but also with her constituents. She was recently teased over a local supermarket's PA system about the grubs she'd had to eat on camera in Australia.

Nadine Dorries is a relaxed interviewee. She sits with her bare feet resting on the sofa in her office; she teases her researcher and dives off into little anecdotes about her friends and family. But her manner has made life awkward at times. 'When I first got into Parliament, I was in the members' tea room with [fellow Tory] John Hayes, ' she says. 'He said to me, "Nadine, have you ever read Alice in Wonderland ? You have just come through a hole and you have landed in the Mad Hatter's Tea Party and you don't understand a word anyone is saying, do you? . . . You are like someone from the real world and I can see you're lost."' She found herself, politically, during her upbringing in a council house in Liverpool where she says she encountered 'an almost abrasive, ruthless honesty about people'.

When Margaret Thatcher 'reached out a hand into my council estate and helped people out' through the right to buy, Dorries realised she was a Conservative. Later she realised she needed to be active in the party because its representatives infuriated her.

'I read an article with some quotes by Ken Clarke and another Conservative MP and I was so angry at the pomposity and the arrogance. . . I just remember thinking there is only one way to deal with this and that is to get on the inside.'

Now she's on the inside, looking out. And she finds the view rather discouraging. She draws parallels between the dying Tory government in 1997 and today's political scene.

'[Voters] hated us because the Labour party promise, the vision, the song "Things Can Only Get Better" had a purchase on people's imagination, and in their hearts that I see being replicated by Ukip today. …

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