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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Adam Forrest

Tories turn on ‘useless’ Nadine Dorries after attack on Sunak

PA Archive

Rishi Sunak allies have fired back at “bitter” Nadine Dorries after she accused the PM of putting her personal safety at risk by whipping up “a public frenzy” against her.

The Boris Johnson loyalist launched a scathing attack on Mr Sunak as she finally formally resigned her seat, 11 weeks after promising to go – telling him: “History will not judge you kindly.”

But senior Tory Bob Neill – a loyal Sunak supporter – accused Ms Dorries of presiding over a “theatre of the absurd” with her recent refusal to go unless documents concerning her denied peerage were released.

“She had become an embarrassment,” Mr Neill told Times Radio. “She was a pretty useless culture secretary and she finally created her own theatre of the absurd. It is so obviously motivated by personal bitterness and bile and has got no credibility at all.

“To accuse the prime minister, who is doing his best to get back to sound economic policy, of abandoning fundamental principles, really takes the biscuit, of all the political absurdity I’ve heard.”

Mr Neill, chair of the justice select committee, also suggested that MPs could consider changing Commons rules to punish “deliberate non-attendance” to stop the saga surrounding Ms Dorries – who had not spoken in parliament for a year – from happening again.

In her resignation letter, Ms Dorries also accused Mr Sunak of betraying Conservative principles and running a “zombie” government.

She accused Mr Sunak of leading attacks on her resulting in “the police having to visit my home and contact me on a number of occasions due to threats to my person … The clearly orchestrated and almost daily personal attacks demonstrates the pitifully low level your government has descended to.”

Tory peer Gavin Barwell, the former No 10 chief of staff under Theresa May, said her claim that Mr Sunak “whipped up a storm” against her was “absurd” – insisting that it had come from the constituency.

Nadine Dorries accused Sunak of ‘orchestrated’ attacks
— (Getty)

On her attack on Mr Sunak’s record, Lord Barwell told Times Radio: “It takes a certain degree of brass neck to attack the economic record of this government. Many of the problems Sunak is grappling with are ones he’s inherited either from Boris Johnson or Liz Truss.”

One senior Tory MP told The Independent that Ms Dorries was “off her rocker” and was “making a show of herself”. Another senior Tory MP said she had timed her exit so a by-election inflicts maximum damage to Mr Sunak around the time of the Tory conference.

Senior Tory Caroline Nokes accused Ms Dorries of “turning her resignation into a psychodrama”, telling BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House: “Sadly this seems more about gathering column inches for Nadine rather than a Conservative Party she claimed to be a loyal member of a few weeks ago.”

The Treasury confirmed it has been notified of Ms Dorries’ intention to step down. She is expected to leave her parliamentary seat on Tuesday by being appointed to the historical position of steward and bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern – allowing a by-election within weeks.

In her blistering statement published in The Mail on Sunday, Ms Dorries said Mr Sunak had abandoned “the fundamental principles of Conservatism”.

“Since you took office a year ago, the country is run by a zombie parliament where nothing meaningful has happened,” she wrote. “You have no mandate from the people and the government is adrift. You have squandered the goodwill of the nation, for what?”

Nadine Dorries was a strong backer of Boris Johnson
— (PA)

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer said on Sunday it was “regrettable” that Ms Dorries had “gone down the personal route” by attacking Mr Sunak.

Asked about Ms Dorries’ letter criticising the Sunak government’s record, Mr Mercer told Times Radio there was “stuff in there that’s clearly not true” – referring to her attack on defence spending. “She’s entitled to her view,” he added. “It’s far better to be seen to fail while striving greatly rather than just sort of chucking rocks on the side.”

Mr Sunak previously said Ms Dorries’ voters were not “being properly represented”, but did not move to expel her. Labour, the Lib Dems and two councils in her constituency – Shefford and Flitwick – had urged her to go. Constituents complained that she was “making a mockery” of them.

Ms Dorries refused to say if she would vote for the Conservatives at the next general election. She told TalkTV on Sunday: “You’re asking me a question I don’t want to answer.” The ex-minister also said that the Tories were “very, very unlikely” to win under Mr Sunak.

Ed Davey and Keir Starmer have been urged to forge an electoral pact in Mid Bedfordshire
— (Getty)

Labour is hopeful of overturning Ms Dorries’ 24,000 majority in the by-election in Mid Bedfordshire – which the Conservative Party has held since 1931 – having come second in 2019.

But the Liberal Democrats also believe they have the chance of springing another by-election shock after overturning a 19,000 blue majority in Somerton and Frome last month.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey told BBC Breakfast he was “increasingly confident we have a really good chance”. Speaking on the same programme, Labour frontbencher Anneliese Dodds said her party was in “pole position” for the seat, adding: “Labour won’t be cooking up any deals.”

The campaign group Compass, which advocates tactical voting, has urged Labour and the Lib Dems to get together to decide which party has the better chance of winning in Mid Bedfordshire in a “non-aggression pact”.

Compass director Neal Lawson told The Independent: “The ghost of last month’s by-election in Uxbridge should loom large over Mid Bedfordshire. There, the progressive vote outnumbered the Conservative vote, but the Tories retained the seat because support for progressive parties was divided.”

He added: “This must not happen in Mid Bedfordshire. Progressives can’t only do deals and work together when it’s easy – they must also do so when it’s hard.”

Lord Barwell said the Tory party’s chances in Mid Bedfordshire were “not good” – but that they could take heart from the prospect of Labour and Lib Dems splitting the vote “evenly”. Mr Mercer insisted the Tories could still win, adding: “I don’t think we are on track to lose that by-election.”

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