Nadine Dorries, blogging MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, answers your questions:
Deborah: You seem to be more prepared to say what you really think than many other MPs. I appreciate this - but do you get much flack for not always toeing the party line?
Not really, but then there has never been a major issue raise its head where I have been out of step with my party. The Conservative party is a very broad church, many MPs hold opinions which can sit anywhere on a particular spectrum. It's what I enjoy about being in Parliament the most, the amount of debate which takes place when you have more than three Conservative MP`s sat together. How boring would it be if we all felt the same about every issue? If you can imagine the answer to that question, that's how boring it is to be a Labour MP.
Milton: There is a vicious rumour that you once insisted on putting make-up on Oliver Letwin before he did an interview for Money Box (a radio show). Is it true?
Well if it is – he let me!
Mike H: If you had the power to change one aspect of today's society, what would you choose to do?
I would want to ensure that those who feel alienated and excluded, the have nots, feel that they are a part of our society and have a valuable contribution to make. The demise of traditional communities – largely as a result of the breakdown of the family – has led to the creation of an underclass consisting of literally millions of people who feel completely disenfranchised from the rest of us.
Iain Duncan Smith's thought provoking report titled, Breakdown Britain, articulates far better than I can the scale of the problem and ways in which it can be addressed. I believe the creation of a growing underclass and its long term social consequences is the most important issue facing our country today.
Carl Cross: There is significant, even if minority, support for the party in Liverpool and our major cities. How best should we try to connect with these people?
Firstly we need to look at the example of Conservative successes that already exists in many of our cities across the country. At the last general election we saw the beginnings of a revival in London with significant gains such as Ilford North, Putney, Hammersmith & Fulham and Wimbledon. This success was repeated at the last set of local elections in the capital, when we gained more Councils and Councilors.
In other cities such as Coventry and Birmingham we now leading the Council and have shown that we can win – and win well - in urban Britain. To connect with people in cities such as Liverpool, we need to show people the benefits of voting Conservative and prove to them that we share their concerns and understand their priorities.
I am under no illusions as to the scale of the task ahead, but we are only able to connect, if we have an active and vibrant organisation on the ground with which to connect to. That is why I backed the successful city wide structure for the party in Liverpool and believe this model could be replicated in other parts of the country too.
Mike H: In my experience a large proportion of the population has little time for politics and, in particular, politicians. The culture of spin, deceit and obfuscation employed by the current administration has done little to help the situation. What do you believe politicians need to do in order to re-engage the interest and respect of their electorate?
If only there was a simple answer to that question! There are a number of changes that need to take place if the public are to be fully engaged with the democratic process. Just because fewer people may be voting, does not necessarily mean they are not interested in political issues. Across the country, millions of people are active in organizations that are committed to a variety of causes such as ending global poverty, protecting the environment or other humanitarian causes. I believe the strength of these organizations reflects the importance that political issues still hold in our country. We must try to understand what motivates people to become involved in such organizations; and how this enthusiasm can manifest itself into the mainstream political process. I believe this is one way to re-engage the interest of people into politics.
jamie: You come from a very different background from many of the younger MPs. From your perspective, do you think the party has a lot to lose with its increasingly public school / oxbridge image? Is it alienating working class Tories?
I don't believe the party does have an increasingly public school/Oxbridge image. Remember, It's not where you're from, but where you're at !! However, the real issue you highlight is what are the peoples' perceptions of the Conservative Party. This is why - as David Cameron recognises – the party must change, and is changing. To improve peoples' perceptions of the party – including those of the so called 'working class' - we must be seen as modern, inclusive and compassionate; I believe these sentiments appeal to our so called traditional supporters, just as much as they do to anybody else.
Let us not be in any doubt, to improve peoples' perceptions of the Conservative Party we have no choice but to be firmly rooted in the centre ground of mainstream political opinion whilst holding on tight to our fundamental Conservative principles and being the party which is seen as the champion of the family, marriage and strong communities.
TaxCutter: Do you think the party should promise tax cuts at next General Election?
No. We tried that in 1997, 2001 and 2005 and the public simply didn't believe us. What's the point of promising something, if the public don't believe you; and you can't show how you are going to achieve it either? The Party's biggest priority is to restore our credibility for economic competence.
It would also be highly irresponsible for a party that aspires to govern the country and gain the trust of the people to make promises of tax cuts, when we do not have a crystal ball at our disposal to know right here and now, in what state the public finances will be in two or three years time. The Treasury Team – notably the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne MP and the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Theresa Villiers MP – have both gone a very long way in restoring our party's credibility on financial matters.
Our commitment to share the proceeds of growth - when it is financially prudent to do so – is consistent with our objective to be seen as economically competent. Understandably, households in Britain do not want to see a return to the levels of interest rates we witnessed in the early 1990s - and the huge impact that made on mortgage repayments for hardworking families. Any commitment to unsustainable tax cuts - that are not properly thought through - would merely be headline grabbing and could lead to new inflationary pressures, that would put up interest rates and increase peoples' mortgage repayments. If the price of restoring our reputation for economic competence is a refusal to make uncosted promises to cut peoples' taxes, then I believe it is a price worth paying.
Machiavelli's Understudy: With your apparent background in this area, where do you think Care in the Community should begin, and with whom?
Care in the community should begin with the needs and concerns of the patient – but balanced with the needs and concerns of the wider community too; this is why it needs to be properly financed with the right provision of support in place. If 'care in the community' is seen as a way simply of cutting costs, then it is destined to fail. The needs of each patient should be judged on their individual merits. What is right for one patient may not be appropriate for another.
The success of Care in the Community is dependent upon both the appropriate level of provision, and confidence amongst the public that this provision is available. Just one negative headline in the national media, causes huge damage to the public's perceptions. The ability of care in the community to deliver an appropriate level of care, must be balanced by safeguarding the wider interests of society at the same time. As an observation, I would argue that if the provision of care in the community services were properly funded, many of the public's concerns would soon evaporate.
James: What do you say to one of the posters on the Louise Bagshawe thread who argued that female politicians must ultimately choose between being a mother and being an MP, and can't do both long-term? I'm assuming you disagree!
It would be hard to be a mother and an MP if you had a constituency outside of London or the Home Counties, and you were expected to live in the constituency and not in London during the week. However, women have an amazing ability to juggle and do manage to multi task with ease. I suppose a fully supportive partner is the key – one who relishes fatherhood and is prepared to do more than just kick a ball around. I will always remember my phone buzzing when I was in a meeting in my first week here – the message said "mum, where are my hockey socks?" So, a partner who knows where the hockey socks live would be a great advantage!
Barry Garston: The Independent names as you as one of the most stylish MPs and Sky News has you listed as one of the most fanciable - how do you deal with the pressures on you to look good and maintain your style? Do you think woman MPs are subjected to a different level of scrutiny in this respect compared to men in politics? Do you dress to impress, or does it just come naturally?
I open my wardrobe doors every day and despair because I have nothing to wear! It doesn't come naturally, it comes carelessly, with almost no thought or preparation whatsoever. I am only 5'2 1/2 (the half is very important!); therefore I would argue that being such a shortie makes it impossible to look stylish! I think women MPs do come under a little more scrutiny than the men, but that happens in all walks of life, not just politics.
Watchdog: Do you agree with David Davis MP - that Capital Punishment should be re-introduced for the murder of police officers?
No. Whilst I have a great deal of sympathy with the sentiment, I believe that if you value human life, this has to be unconditional. Fortunately, the murder of police officers in this country is still very rare and I pay tribute to all our police officers who put their lives at risk during the course of their duties. I would support tougher sentences though for those who are convicted of such crimes and believe we should introduce mandatory sentences for certain crimes such as this.
Peter Barnes: Do you regret the stance you took on Grammar Schools?
No, however, my stance wasn't against grammar schools, it was against not being able to select by academic ability.