Sunday, 11 November 2012

Note to Nadine Dorries, you’re a politician not a celebrity.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries must have thought it seemed like such a good idea when she signed up to appear in the latest series of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. Unfortunately things haven’t turned out as she planned.

It turns out, surprisingly, that parliament and her own constituents take a dim view of a sitting MP skipping the country for a month or more to muck about in the jungle. On Tuesday a spokesman for the Tory Party expressed ‘concern’ that she ‘will not be doing parliamentary business in the meantime.’

Poor soul, do you think he’s ever seen ‘I’m a Celebrity…?’ All he probably knows is that it’s on that television thingy they seem to enjoy so much below stairs. Ms Dorries, an elected representative, is going to spend the next month or more removing her own dignity one atom at a time in the company of ‘celebrities’ you’ve either never heard of or thought had died years ago.

Her decision to embrace the witless world of reality television has attracted rather more focussed criticism from other quarters. Home Secretary Theresa May pronounced ‘frankly I think an MPs job is in their constituency and in the House of Commons’ with the frosty disdain of someone being touted as a future party leader. Fellow back bencher Sara Wollaston said ‘we need more women in parliament but it doesn’t help if they make themselves ridiculous by swanning off to the jungle.’ Paul Duckett, the Chair of Mid Bedfordshire Conservative Association told the press they were considering a range of sanctions against their errant MP, including de-selection.

One of Ms Dorries constituents took to Twitter, as reported by, to write ‘My MP Nadine Dorries just arrived in OZ for I’m a Celeb! No wonder she hasn’t replied to email about my poorly boy. Busy eating bugs! Thanks!’ Which rather puts things in perspective, this isn’t about a sometimes stuffy institution being embarrassed by one of its members, it’s about people struggling to cope with serious problems being let down by the person elected to represent them.

Justifying her decision to go on the programme Nadine Dorries told the Daily Mail she was ‘doing the show because sixteen million people watch it. Rather than MPs talking to other MPs about issues in parliament, I think MPs should be going to where people go.’

Generally I don’t much care who appears on ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ or what they get up to once there, the programme has its target audience and if they enjoy it all well and good. Personally I’d rather glue toenail clippings to the roof of my mouth than join their number.

However, when an elected representative decided to join in the stupidity at a time when the reputation of parliament and politics in general is at an all time low it is a different matter; one that raises issues of trust and responsibility that go to the heart of the problems afflicting our political culture.

The thinking, such as it is, behind Dorries actions is that she is somehow making politics more ‘accessible’. If you follow this all the way to the outer edges of reductio ad absurdum David Cameron should enliven the next PMQ’s by doing a Gangnam style dance routine and the leader of the opposition should change his name by deed poll to Ed ‘rock n roll’ Milliband.

If you think this would be stupid, harmful to the dignity of their respective offices and a grave insult to the intelligence of the British public you would be quite correct. Politics isn’t made accessible by cheap gimmicks, to do that the people who practice it have to get on with the unglamorous and often thankless task of helping the people they represent and holding the government to account.

Perhaps Nadine Dorries, a somewhat eccentric character at the best of times, really does think she can do so by appearing or an exploitative and often cruel televised freak show. We are all free to entertain whatever delusions we choose; but she might have been advised to consider the case of George Galloway before she reached for her passport.

These days nobody remembers that the week before going into the Big Brother house he ran rings around a Senate committee or that he is, for all his opportunism and eccentricity, one of the smarted and most articulate members of the house. Nobody remembers these things because the memory of him capering about in an unflattering green body stocking on live television keeps getting in the way.

This will one day make a sad epitaph for an admirably free spirited, if often misguided, political career. Nadine Dorries has in the past been no stranger to saying unpopular things because she happens to believe them to be right, that made her an effective back bencher even if she was a little too fond of courting publicity.

This latest exertion into the spotlight though could well come at the coat of her political career or at the very least mean she forfeits the right to be taken seriously. I seldom agree with what she has to say, but if Nadine Dorries is really the woman of principle she portrays herself to be that may in the long term leave a far nastier taste in her mouth than any of the bugs she’ll have to eat over then next few weeks.

And Another Thing

I don’t know what came over This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield when he ‘ambushed’ David Cameron live on air with a list of Tory politicians accused of being linked to child abuse allegations cobbled together from the internet. Maybe he snapped after years of listening to celebrities drone on about their latest film/book/divorce; either way his actions were misjudged and unprofessional.

Child abuse is a terrible crime and neither age nor status should shield perpetrators from facing the consequences of their actions, false accusations though have the power to wreck innocent lives and make it harder for victims to come forward. The only way the problems abuse causes can be addressed is from a firm basis of evidence, not as part of the sort of ‘witch hunt’ the Prime Minister so rightly warned against.

BBC Director General George Entwistle resigned late last night, brought down by shoddy journalism and his own staggering lack of curiosity. Am I the only person who is surprised that the former ‘Head of Vision’ couldn’t see any of the problems that did for him coming?

Clive Dunn, Corporal Jones in the long running BBC sitcom Dad’s Army died this week aged 92.

The remarkable success of this most enduring of programmes, the last episode was filmed in 1978 but it has seldom been off our screens since, rests on a mix of nostalgia, strong scripts and brilliant comic acting from the likes of Dunn, Arthur Lowe et a; by far its biggest attraction though is that it could be about anyone living at any time, Captain Mainwaring and his platoon are archetypes of our own foolishness and virtues, everyone knows somebody who is a bit like one of the characters in Dad’s Army.

Dunn was a lifelong Labour supporter, maybe Ed Milliband could draw inspiration from his two famous catchphrases. Don’t panic when the press turn against him and remember that the Tories, like Jerry, don’t like it up em!

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