I CAN’T say I am desperate for another reason to dislike Nadine Dorries.
Her repeated attempts to lower the abortion limit, her bizarre notions about sexual abstinence for teenage girls (not boys you understand, just girls), her slightly manic blog, which reads like it was written at 3am by a sleep-deprived 15-year-old who has listened to nothing but One Direction for the last fortnight; Dorries is just the sort of Tory MP who puts people’s teeth on edge. On hearing that she is currently en route to Queensland however, where she is to join the cast of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, possibly for a whole month, my teeth almost popped out on to the floor.
It’s not just that it is an enormously attention-seeking thing to do (which it is), or that it is a hugely irresponsible thing to do (it’s that too), it is that in some dreadful, preordained way it is utterly unsurprising. Dorries revels in her maverick status, whether it’s as a thorn in David Cameron’s side or her ruthless persistence in trying to get John Bercow sacked as Leader of the House. I can quite see how when the call came from the producers of arguably the most inane show on television (although, to be honest there’s a lot of competition nowadays), she leapt at the chance.
The Conservative Party is not amused. There is the chance that she may miss an important Nato vote, as well as the Chancellor’s autumn statement, for which she could be penalised. There’s also the fact that she is abandoning her constituents for a month to go cavorting in the Australian jungle, a venture for which she will apparently be rather handsomely paid – some reports have suggested as much as £40,000. As one constituent remarked drily yesterday: “Why does she need to do that?” Why indeed.
Dorries, of course, is deploying the “I want millions of people to hear what I stand for, what my political beliefs are, and get the nation talking about politics” argument.
We’ve heard this before, first from George Galloway, when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother while a sitting MP, and then from his red or dead pal Tommy Sheridan, who washed up on the same show a couple of years later. It didn’t work for either of them. Their political monologues were cut, their housemates weren’t remotely interested and all anyone remembers about their appearances nowadays is that Galloway rather queasily offered to act like a cat, and Sheridan dressed up as a pepperpot to ice skate with La Toya Jackson.
The truth is, we won’t hear a peep out of Dorries on her political beliefs. The producers are savvy enough to know that nothing gets people in Britain switching the “off” button faster than a Tory MP banging on about, well, anything frankly. And while she might well trot out her best 20-minute speeches while hanging around the campfire, they will be cut to 30 or 40 seconds and edited for humorous effect.
In fact, I feel a twinge of sympathy for the likes of Eric Bristow and Linda Robson (the blonde one from Birds Of A Feather) who, as fellow camp mates will, no doubt, be subjected to the full, unexpurgated version.
No, what will make people switch on and watch the show – and again, the producers of reality TV shows may be many things in life but stupid is not one of them – is the tantalising prospect of seeing an elected member of parliament eat a kangaroo anus, or have fishguts poured over her, or being buried alive in a coffin full of rats. And because everyone likes a villain, and no-one in Britain in 2012 does villain quite like an outspoken Tory, we will, I suspect, see rather a lot of this.
Dorries will be voted to do bushtucker trial after bushtucker trial, as the country publicly flails her for everything from NHS cuts to calling policemen plebs. She will take shape in the public mind as a Super-Tory (if ever there was a nightmare-inducing image, this might just be it) and will be punished accordingly, in much the same way as we once used to throw rotten vegetables at disgraced figures in the stocks in the village square.
All of this will make her something of a flash-in-the-pan household name, I imagine, although to what end, other than national embarrassment, I’m not sure.
Ultimately, what I suspect we will see is a Dorries who will return to Britain with no credibility whatsoever. Which, given how little she left with, is really quite remarkable.