Nadine Dorries MP: In the jungle, people finally saw a Tory MP who could relate to them. I would do it all again.
In my seven and a half years as an MP I think it is important to state that I have never taken a single day away from Parliament on one of the many jollies most MPs enjoy to various parts of the world.In fact, some MPs can spend as many as six weeks a year away on freebie jaunts. This isn't really a point I would normally make. However, it seems that my appearance on IAC has been criticised by some MPs, admittedly the jobless, more ambitious ones, and therefore I regretfully feel compelled to point this out.
My appearance in IAC took place over the half term break, ironically, when many MPs were abroad and on holiday. I missed three Parliamentary sitting days and no legislation.
However, putting aside the duplicity of the ambitious, what has shocked me the most has been the sexism and double standards applied to my appearance.
I am very sure that William Hague, following his resignation as leader of the party, spent far more than three sitting days away from Parliament whilst he was writing his books and speaking on the after dinner circuit earning vast amounts of money. Did he have his whip suspended? Some MPs earn an extremely substantial salary in the City and pop into Parliament to vote at night – have they been challenged over the sitting days they have missed?
In fact, a considerable number of MPs, including many backbenchers, supplement their salaries with outside earnings which involve them having to occasionally, or in some cases frequently, miss days away from Parliament. Do the press dedicate numerous front pages to their extra curricular activities? Following Vince Cable's handling of the BSkyB deal he appeared on Strictly Come Dancing. Oh, how the press loved him. Well, of course, they would, he’s a bloke. Was his whip suspended? If it had been, far more people would have taken note of his appearance.
I am aware that many reading this may think I was rather stupid to put my trust in the man famous for plebgate and for this I will cry mea culpa. However, what has been most shocking has been his selective phraseology. “I did not give her permission to do the the show”. Quite right, he didn’t. I was contractually bound to tell no one that I was appearing on the show. However, even though I knew I would be back in the UK fairly promptly following the half term holiday, I requested a month off to do something "very controversial". Not only did he grant the request, we laughed at how relieved the Prime Minister would be to know I was out of his hair for up to a month.
And we wonder why people don't trust politicians?
During my time in the jungle there were twice as many Google searches for Nadine Dorries than there were for David Cameron and twenty times as many than for George Osborne or Ed Milliband and those searches came from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and THEN London as well as huge interest in Scotland and Wales. Not places normally interested in looking up a Tory MP.
What they got was an impression of a woman from their own background who was interested in engaging with their world and was untainted by the stuffy rigidity of the Westminster bubble.
The copious comments on my Twitter feed following my “Daybreak” and “This Morning” appearances as I left the jungle have been nothing short of amazing and supportive.
I have not a shred of regret. I would do the same thing again tomorrow. It would be impossible as the Mayor of London, but if only Boris could follow me in next year. If he could only use this exceptional medium to communicate with 12–16 million voters, the critics who say that no-one south of Watford knows who he is would have to find another excuse to diss him. Maybe his Dad, Stanley, could go in his place?
I owe a debt of thanks to No10. The sexist media storm in a bucket along with the suspension has resulted in making me, outside of the obvious big players, the best known MP in Parliament. Who would ever have thought that?