A government minister has called for “absentee” Tory MP Nadine Dorries to officially resign, saying her constituents are not being properly represented – while a Labour MP has said the Conservative is “taking voters for a ride”.
Robert Jenrick said Downing Street will “consider” proposals to oust her from the Commons but she should “get on” with the formal process of vacating her seat so a by-election can be held.
Ms Dorries is yet to do this despite saying in June she would be standing down with “immediate effect” after she was denied a seat in the House of Lords.
The Boris Johnson loyalist has been branded an “absentee” and “malingerer” as she has not spoken in the Commons since July 2022 and last voted in April this year.
Asked if her constituents are in limbo and if it’s time for her to go, Mr Jenrick told Sky News: “Yes, I think being a member of parliament is a special privilege. You sign up for a term in office, if you decide you want to leave parliament [before then] you need to get on and do that.”
He refused to be drawn on whether Ms Dorries was an “embarrassment” to the Conservative Party, but said her constituents in Mid Bedfordshire “are not being properly represented”.
Asked about plans by Labour MP Sir Chris Bryant to oust her from the Commons, Mr Jenrick said he believed he was relying on “arcane legislation” but “if he brings forward serious proposals then as individual members of parliament, we’ll have to consider that”.
The comments from Mr Jenrick go further than Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week, who said the former culture minister was failing her constituents but stopped short of calling on her to properly resign.
The Mid Bedfordshire seat has been held by Ms Dorries since 2005 and the Conservative Party generally since 1931, but the Tories are wary of any electoral challenge as they lag far behind Labour in the polls.
Mr Bryant, who is chair of the Commons committee on standards, wants to have a vote requiring Ms Dorries to appear in parliament under a rule dating back to 1801 which states that “no member do presume to go out of town without leave of this House”.
Dorries ‘taking voters for a ride’
He said this means that “in other words, you have to get permission to absent yourself from parliament”.
Mr Bryant said a local councillor would be out of a job if they failed to turn up to anything for six months and the same rule should apply for MPs.
He believes the 1801 rule can be used to table a motion saying Ms Dorries’ absence is forbidden and she must turn up to speak by a certain date “and if she doesn’t, she’s in contempt of parliament”.
Ms Dorries, who writes a Daily Mail column and hosts a TalkTV show, has hit back at the plan on Twitter, accusing Mr Bryant of “publicity seeking” ahead of the launch of his book about improving standards in parliament.
But he told Sky News: “Yeah, I’ve got a book out, it’s all about misconduct in parliament and I think the person at the moment who is taking voters for a ride is the absentee, malingering member for Mid Bedfordshire.”
Ms Dorries announced her resignation earlier this summer after it was revealed she would not be getting ennobled in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list, and accused Mr Sunak of interfering in the process – something the prime minister denies.
However, she later said she wants to conduct her own investigation into why she did not get a peerage before actually resigning.