THE Conservative Party last night suspended the whip from MP Nadine Dorries after it emerged she was planning an extended absence from Westminster to appear on TV’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
A senior party source said that the Mid-Bedfordshire MP would remain suspended pending a meeting with chief whip Sir George Young.
The MP was subjected to a barrage of criticism – some of it from fellow Tory MPs – after it was revealed that she could be in the Australian Bush for up to a month filming the ITV show.
A Conservative spokesman said: “George Young has suspended the whip from Nadine Dorries. He will have an urgent meeting with her when she gets back. The concern is that she will not be doing parliamentary or constituency business in the meantime.”
Ms Dorries, 55, who has been a prominent backbench critic of Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, will be the first serving MP to take part in the programme.
But her stint in the jungle – which could see her missing an EU budget vote and potentially be away for Chancellor George Osborne’s mini-budget – caught even her own colleagues off-guard.
Her constituency chairman said he was unaware of her involvement in the show, while Home Secretary Theresa May said she believed an MP should be doing their job in their constituency and in parliament.
Ms Dorries, who earns more than £65,000 a year as an MP, has flown out to Brisbane to prepare for the show. She also stands to pick up a fee for appearing on the programme.
She justified her decision to take part, saying: “I’m doing the show because 16 million people watch it. If people are watching I’m A Celebrity, that is where MPs should be going. I’m not going in there to upset people, but I have opinions.”
Conservative former minister Ann Widdecombe condemned the withdrawal of the whip from Ms Dorries.
“I just can’t believe it,” Miss Widdecombe said. “I don’t know who is advising David Cameron, because now the story isn’t ‘Should Nadine be doing this?’, the story is now ‘Heavy-handed response from the whips’ office’.
“If Nadine does get it right
out there, they have got themselves into a very silly situation. Why on earth couldn’t they have said it is a matter between Dorries and her constituents and
left it at that? Silly, silly idiots.”
The ITV1 series returns to screens on Sunday as the latest intake of contestants are seen entering the jungle camp.
In the past, contestants have had to eat stomach-churning meals, and been covered in insects, spiders and rats
An ITV spokeswoman declined to comment on Ms Dorries’s inclusion in the show, saying only: “ITV have not announced the line up for I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here.”
Last night, Ms Dorries’ constituency chairman said he had still not been informed she was taking part and would consider “further action” depending on views within the local association.
“She is a very good constituency MP, she is very diligent and she spends a lot of time on the job and I’m quite surprised that she has decided to just go away and take part on the programme,” said Paul Duckett, chairman of the Mid Bedfordshire Conservative Association.