Politics latest: Nadine Dorries says country now run by 'zombie parliament' as she formally steps down (2023)

Key points
  • Nadine Dorries sends resignation letter to PM
  • Dorries' resignation letter in full
  • Labour MP says he is 'relieved' for Mid Bedfordshire residents
  • She's not going quietly - but Tory MPs will have little sympathy | Jon Craig
  • Live reporting by Katie Williams


She's not going quietly - but Tory MPs will have little sympathy

To Labour MPs and her detractors in the Tory party, she's "Mad Nad". To constituents furious with their absentee MP, she's "Dosser Dorries".

But now – finally – Nadine Dorries is giving up the tiresome chore of being an MP to become a full-time chat-show host, novelist, newspaper columnist and celebrity.

And she's not going quietly. Her brutal hit-job on Rishi Sunak in her resignation letter doesn’t pull any punches. But after the damage her conduct in the past few months has already inflicted on the Conservative Party she’ll win little sympathy from Tory MPs.

Despite briefly serving in cabinet in the relatively junior position of culture secretary under her not-so-secret crush Boris Johnson, she's hardly one of the big beasts of the party or a substantial political figure whose resignation will send shock waves through her party.

While she's making a lot of noise and clearly hell-bent on taking her revenge on Mr Sunak for his role in the demise of her beloved Boris, we're not talking political earthquake here like the resignation of Cabinet titans like Michael Heseltine from Margaret Thatcher's cabinet in 1986 or Robin Cook over Tony Blair's Iraq war in 2003.

For most of her political career, Nadine Dorries has been a maverick backbencher whose main claim to fame was appearing on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here in 2012 without permission, for which she had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

The only Tory leader to whom she was totally devoted was Boris Johnson. She never had any time for Mr Cameron. In 2012 she denounced the then PM and chancellor George Osborne as "two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk".

In her resignation letter attacking Mr Sunak she refers to her time in politics before she became MP for Mid Bedfordshire in 2005. She was a special adviser to the unworldly Oliver Letwin. Talk about the odd couple: the working class ex-nurse from Liverpool and the old Etonian toff.

Former Fleet Street executive and Tory spin doctor Henry Macrory tells an amusing story about Nadine's time working for Letwin when he was shadow chancellor. Discovering her frantically applying make-up to his face, Macrory asked what she was doing. "Oliver’s doing an interview," she replied. "For whom?" Macrory enquired. "Moneybox!" she said proudly. "But Moneybox is a radio programme," he informed her.

She could be fiery too, when criticised. Some years back she telephoned a Sky News journalist on a Saturday morning and announced that after a Sky colleague had been critical of her: "You can tell him, I’m going to kick his balls!"

She has never been more fiery than in her resignation letter. She continues to insist that, despite criticism from colleagues, she has "continued to work for my constituents faithfully and diligently to this day".

Really? She hasn't spoken in the Commons for more than a year and has only voted six times this year. Constituents claim they haven’t seen her "in years".

Turning to "the political assassination of Boris Johnson", she claims there's a "dark story" which she intends to tell in a book "which exposes how the democratic process at the heart of our party has been corrupted".

Credible? Her critics will no doubt accuse her of peddling wild conspiracy theories. Her claim that Mr Sunak is guilty of "demeaning his office by opening the gates to whip up a public frenzy against one of his own MPs" appears grossly over the top. Most Tory MPs, by now, are sympathetic to the frustration felt by the PM about her behaviour.

However, to be fair to her, there will be sympathy for her over her disclosure that police have had to visit her home because of threats in recent weeks.

And her description of a "zombie Parliament where nothing meaningful has happened” and “the government is adrift" is pretty spot on.

She has a point, too about Boris Johnson's 2019 manifesto being "completely abandoned". The claim that 200 or more Tory MPs face an "electoral tsunami", however, rather contradicts her claim that "there's no affection for Keir Starmer".

Nadine Dorries has her fans and supporters. They'll claim that from her working class background she's achieved great successes inside and outside politics: her novels are massively successful, for instance, and have earned her a lot of money.

But politics is tribal and apart from the brief period when Boris Johnson made her a minister and then promoted her to the Cabinet she's mostly been an outsider.

Her behaviour of the past few months has almost certainly cost the Tories another safe seat in the by-election that she now says she's ready to trigger. And her book on Mr Johnson is timed to cause Mr Sunak and the party high command maximum damage at the Conservative Party conference.

Nadine Dorries is certainly mad. But mad meaning angry, furious and incandescent, rather than in the way Labour MPs portray her. And her prolific career outside parliament proves she's no dosser.

But many Tory MPs will conclude, after reading her valedictory diatribe, that in missing out on the peerage that Boris Johnson promised her and she so obviously craves she's only got herself to blame.


Dorries won't prompt others to turn on Sunak - but Tories will lose next election, says commentator

Nadine Dorries is not regarded as a "political heavyweight" and her resignation is unlikely to prompt other MPs to turn their back on Rishi Sunak, a Conservative commentator has said.

Samantha Smith, a columnist for The Spectator, told Sky News Dorries' words won't have "as much impact as they would have if she hadn't spent the last two months clinging desperately to her seat".

She also said Rishi Sunak appears to have done "about as well as he could in the circumstances he's in".

But she noted that "no one is under any illusions that the current Conservative government is fit for purpose", and suggested that the Tories are likely to lose the next general election.

"This parliament is in its dying days... the Conservative government has 18 months or thereabouts to get the country into as fit a state as it can and make way for whoever it is that's in majority next".


Dorries says Sunak 'opened door to free hits on her'

There's clearly no love lost between Nadine Dorries and Rishi Sunak, as she accuses the PM of "opening the door to free hits on [her].

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, she says the so-called "public frenzy" over her position as MP has resulted in police having to visit her home.

She also branded accusations she has "ignored" her constituents "nonsense".

Watch a clip of her interview here...


Treasury notified of Dorries' resignation

A Treasury source says the department has been notified of Nadine Dorries' intention to officially resign, over two months after she first said she would do so.

Dorries, a staunch ally of Boris Johnson, is expected to be appointed to the historical position of Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern on Tuesday, the source said.

The archaic process officially resigns a person as an MP and removes them from the House of Commons.

It means when parliament returns from recess on 4 September, the writ for the Mid Bedfordshire by-election will be moved.


Davey says Lib Dems 'bookies' favourite' in Dorries constituency

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said the people of Mid Bedfordshire "deserve better", calling turbulence in the Tory party a "circus act".

"That is why we have put forward a strong local champion, Emma Holland-Lindsay, who will fight for every vote and bring constituents right to the heart of Parliament," he said in a statement.

Sir Ed said the Lib Dems are the "bookies' favourite" in the constituency.

"In by-election after by-election across the Blue Wall, we have proven we are the only challengers to the failing Conservative Party."


Labour MP: 'I'm relieved for Mid Bedfordshire residents'

Peter Kyle, Labour's Mid Bedfordshire campaign lead, said he is "relieved" for residents in the constituency now Nadine Dorries has "lifted the block" on a by-election there.

The shadow Northern Ireland secretary told Sky News her constituents "are furious with the fact that there is a governing party that is facing each other and rowing with each other whilst they are facing daily crises in their lives".

Residents have been hit by cost-of-living challenges, increasing NHS waiting lists and changes to public services, he said.

Constituents "want to move forward" but have been held back by a "civil war" among the Tories and "an MP that is absent, that has not been working and has not been allowing the by-election to take place" Mr Kyle added.

"Now we have this opportunity. The finish line is in sight - or the start line for a new future for Mid Bedfordshire - and we're chomping at the bit for that."

Mr Kyle said Labour's candidate Alistair Strathern has "been working his socks off since June", but admitted that overturning Ms Dorries' 24,000 majority would be a big challenge for the party.


Conservatives 'ready for the by-election campaign'

A Tory candidate has been selected for the upcoming by-election in Nadine Dorries' Mid-Bedfordshire seat.

"We have selected a candidate and are ready for the by-election campaign," a Conservative Party spokesman said.

Pressure had been mounting on the former cabinet minister to follow through on her decision to quit the Commons, which she first announced on 9 June.


Nadine Dorries' resignation letter in full - as she accuses Rishi Sunak of whipping up a 'public frenzy' against her

Here is the text of Nadine Dorries' (lengthy) resignation letter, as published in The Mail on Sunday, in full:

Dear Prime Minister,

It has been the greatest honour and privilege of my life to have served the good people of Mid Bedfordshire as their MP for eighteen years and I count myself blessed to have worked in Westminster for almost a quarter of a century. Despite what some in the media and you yourself have implied, my team of caseworkers and I have continued to work for my constituents faithfully and diligently to this day.

When I arrived in Mid Bedfordshire in 2005, I inherited a Conservative majority of 8,000. Over five elections this has increased to almost 25,000, making it one of the safest seats in the country. A legacy I am proud of.

During my time as a Member of Parliament, I have served as a back bencher, a bill Committee Chair, a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State before becoming Minister of State in the Department of Health and Social Care during the Covid crisis, after which I was appointed as Secretary of State at the department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. The offer to continue in my Cabinet role was extended to me by your predecessor, Liz Truss, and I am grateful for your personal phone call on the morning you appointed your cabinet in October, even if I declined to take the call.

As politicians, one of the greatest things we can do is to empower people to have opportunities to achieve their aspirations and to help them to change their lives for the better. In DHSC I championed meaningful improvements to maternity and neonatal safety. I launched the women's health strategy and pushed forward a national evidence-based trial for Group B Strep testing in pregnant women with the aim to reduce infant deaths. When I resigned as Secretary of State for DCMS I was able to thank the professional, dedicated, and hard-working civil servants for making our department the highest performing in Whitehall. We worked tirelessly to strengthen the Online Safety Bill to protect young people, froze the BBC licence fee, included the sale of Channel 4 into the Media Bill to protect its long-term future and led the world in imposing cultural sanctions when Putin invaded Ukraine.

I worked with and encouraged the tech sector, to search out untaught talents such as creative and critical thinking in deprived communities offering those who faced a life on low unskilled pay or benefits, access to higher paid employment and social mobility. What many of the CEOs I spoke to in the tech sector and business leaders really wanted was meaningful regulatory reform from you as chancellor to enable companies not only to establish in the UK, but to list on the London Stock Exchange rather than New York. You flashed your gleaming smile in your Prada shoes and Savile Row suit from behind a camera, but you just weren't listening. All they received in return were platitudes and a speech illustrating how wonderful life was in California. London is now losing its appeal as more UK-based companies seek better listing opportunities in the U.S. That, Prime Minister, is entirely down to you.

Long before my resignation announcement, in July 2022, I had advised the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, of my intention to step down. Senior figures in the party, close allies of yours, have continued to this day to implore me to wait until the next general election rather than inflict yet another damaging by-election on the party at a time when we are consistently twenty points behind in the polls.

Having witnessed first-hand, as Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss were taken down, I decided that the British people had a right to know what was happening in their name. Why is it that we have had five Conservative Prime Ministers since 2010, with not one of the previous four having left office as the result of losing a general election? That is a democratic deficit which the mother of parliaments should be deeply ashamed of and which, as you and I know, is the result of the machinations of a small group of individuals embedded deep at the centre of the party and Downing St.

To start with, my investigations focused on the political assassination of Boris Johnson, but as I spoke to more and more people - and I have spoken to a lot of people, from ex-Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers both ex and current through all levels of government and Westminster and even journalists - a dark story emerged which grew ever more disturbing with each person I spoke to.

It became clear to me as I worked that remaining as a back bencher was incompatible with publishing a book which exposes how the democratic process at the heart of our party has been corrupted. As I uncovered this alarming situation I knew, such were the forces ranged against me, that I was grateful to retain my parliamentary privilege until today. And, as you also know Prime Minister, those forces are today the most powerful figures in the land. The onslaught against me even included the bizarre spectacle of the Cabinet Secretary claiming (without evidence) to a select committee that he had reported me to the Whips and Speakers office (not only have neither office been able to confirm this was true, but they have no power to act, as he well knows). It is surely as clear a breach of Civil Service impartiality as you could wish to see.

But worst of all has been the spectacle of a Prime Minister demeaning his office by opening the gates to whip up a public frenzy against one of his own MPs. You failed to mention in your public comments that there could be no writ moved for a by-election over summer. And that the earliest any by-election could take place is at the end of September. The clearly orchestrated and almost daily personal attacks demonstrates the pitifully low level your Government has descended to.

It is a modus operandi established by your allies which has targeted Boris Johnson, transferred to Liz Truss and now moved on to me. But I have not been a Prime Minister. I do not have security or protection. Attacks from people, led by you, declared open season on myself and the past weeks have resulted in the police having to visit my home and contact me on a number of occasions due to threats to my person.

Since you took office a year ago, the country is run by a zombie Parliament where nothing meaningful has happened. What exactly has been done or have you achieved? You hold the office of Prime Minister unelected, without a single vote, not even from your own MPs. You have no mandate from the people and the Government is adrift. You have squandered the goodwill of the nation, for what?

And what a difference it is now since 2019, when Boris Johnson won an eighty-seat majority and a greater percentage of the vote share than Tony Blair in the Labour landslide victory of '97. We were a mere five points behind on the day he was removed from office. Since you became Prime Minister, his manifesto has been completely abandoned. We cannot simply disregard the democratic choice of the electorate, remove both the Prime Minister and the manifesto commitments they voted for and then expect to return to the people in the hope that they will continue to unquestioningly support us. They have agency, they will use it.

Levelling up has been discarded and with it, those deprived communities it sought to serve. Social care, ready to be launched, abandoned along with the hope of all of those who care for the elderly and the vulnerable. The Online Safety Bill has been watered down. BBC funding reform, the clock run down. The Mental Health Act, timed out. Defence spending, reduced. Our commitment to net zero, animal welfare and the green issues so relevant to the planet and voters under 40, squandered. As Lord Goldsmith wrote in his own resignation letter, because you simply do not care about the environment or the natural world. What exactly is it you do stand for?

You have increased Corporation tax to 25 per cent, taking us to the level of the highest tax take since World War two at 75 per cent of GDP, and you have completely failed in reducing illegal immigration or delivering on the benefits of Brexit. The bonfire of EU legislation, swerved. The Windsor framework agreement, a dead duck, brought into existence by shady promises of future preferment with grubby rewards and potential gongs to MPs. Stormont is still not sitting.

Disregarding your own chancellor, last week you took credit for reducing inflation, citing your 'plan'. There has been no budget, no new fiscal measures, no debate, there is no plan. Such statements take the British public for fools. The decline in the price of commodities such as oil and gas, the eased pressure on the supply of wheat and the increase in interest rates by the Bank of England are what has taken the heat out of the economy and reduced inflation. For you to personally claim credit for this was disingenuous at the very least.

It is a fact that there is no affection for Keir Starmer out on the doorstep. He does not have the winning X factor qualities of a Thatcher, a Blair, or a Boris Johnson, and sadly, Prime Minister, neither do you. Your actions have left some 200 or more of my MP colleagues to face an electoral tsunami and the loss of their livelihoods, because in your impatience to become Prime Minister you put your personal ambition above the stability of the country and our economy. Bewildered, we look in vain for the grand political vision for the people of this great country to hold on to, that would make all this disruption and subsequent inertia worthwhile, and we find absolutely nothing.

I shall take some comfort from explaining to people exactly how you and your allies achieved this undemocratic upheaval in my book. I am a proud working-class Conservative which is why the Levelling Up agenda was so important to me. I know personally how effective a strong and helping hand can be to lift someone out of poverty and how vision, hope and opportunity can change lives. You have abandoned the fundamental principles of Conservatism. History will not judge you kindly.

I shall today inform the Chancellor of my intention to take the Chiltern Hundreds, enabling the writ to be moved on September the 4th for the by-election you are so desperately seeking to take place.

Yours sincerely,

Nadine Dorries


Nadine Dorries formally resigns as MP

Former Conservative minister Nadine Dorries has announced she is resigning, after months of criticism over her absence from the House of Commons.

In her resignation letter, published in The Mail on Sunday, the Tory MP accused Rishi Sunak of "demeaning his office by opening the gates to whip up a public frenzy" against her.

Ms Dorries, a key ally of Boris Johnson, said she was resigning with "immediate effect" on 9 June after she failed to get a peerage in Mr Johnson's resignation honours list.

But having not formally vacated her seat, a by-election has not been able to take place.

Ms Dorries said she was delaying her exit to investigate why she was refused a seat in the House of Lords, but many of her local Conservatives, constituents and fellow MPs accused her of "abandoning" the people of Mid Bedfordshire.


Asylum seekers moved off Bibby Stockholm barge 'displayed symptoms of Legionnaires' disease', letter claims

By Alexandra Rogers, political reporter

Asylum seekers who were housed on the Bibby Stockholm barge have claimed the Home Office did not contact them even when some on board showed signs of suspected Legionnaires' disease.

In an open letter to the Home Office, seen by Sky News, one asylum seeker hit out at their treatment from the department, describing their move on to the barge as a "harsh tragedy".

The author - who was speaking on behalf of the 39 asylum seekers originally on board - said a sense of "isolation and loneliness" had gripped those who weremoved off the vessel following the discovery of Legionella bacteriaearlier this month.

The writer also claimed that one of the asylum seekers had attempted suicide, but added: "We acted promptly and prevented this unfortunate event."

In response to the asylum seekers' letter, a Home Office spokesperson said: "We are following all protocol and advice from Dorset Council's Environmental Health team, UK Health Security Agency and Dorset NHS, who we continue to work closely with.

"Further tests are being conducted and we intend to re-embark asylum seekers only when there is confirmation that the water system meets relevant safety standards. The safety of those onboard remains the priority."

Sky News has asked the Home Office specifically about the claim it did not contact asylum seekers when some on board showed signs of suspected Legionnaires' disease, but we have yet to receive a response.

You can read more from the letter here:

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