Nadine Dorries channels Churchill

"The criticism of cowards didn't affect him. It certainly doesn't affect me."

Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid-Bedfordshire and baiter-in-chief of the "two arrogant posh boys" who lead her party, is in danger of over exposure.

Fresh from her appearance on this week's Have I Got News for You -- playing to perfection the part of the awkward, rictus-sporting politician (a part previously performed by Tom Watson and Louise Mensch among others) -- Dorries pops up in this morning's Financial Times.

She tells the FT that her critics make her "blisteringly angry". But drawing on the life of Winston Churchill -- though not, she insists, making a direct parallel -- she notes: 

People used to talk about him in the corridors and laugh about him. He was ridiculed . . . he was a lone voice in the House of Commons.

The criticism of cowards didn't affect him . . . It certainly doesn't affect me.

Whether her own criticisms of David Cameron and George Osborne affect the PM and the Chancellor is less clear.

She avoids mentioning either of them by name in this morning's interview but does talk of politicians who "haven't ever earned their own money" which sounds like it might be aimed at Osborne. Meanwhile her praise of Boris Johnson, an acceptable posh boy apparently, is an indirect attack on Cameron. 

Boris can connect with people's concerns . . . He's more sensitive and more caring than some other people.

Who are "some other people", I wonder? 

Dorries never wanted Cameron as leader: "he represented everything that through my life . . . I'd been suspicious of", she once said.

Prior to the 2010 general election, the New Statesman named her as one of the "10 people Dave should fear" ("Dorries couldn't be further from media-friendly compassionate conservatism") but unless she can gather allies around her to pose a real threat to Cameron's leadership she's in danger of becoming a noisy but ineffectual lone backbencher.


Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.