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 Brexiteers have lost battles but they are still set to win the war

The prospect of the UK avoiding Brexit, or even a “hard” version, remains doubtful. 

Before the general election, the Brexiteers would boast that everything had gone their way. Parliament had voted to trigger Article 50 by a majority of 372. The Treasury-forecast recession hadn't occurred. And polls showed the public backing Brexit by a comfortable margin

But since the Conservatives' electoral humbling, the Leavers have been forced to retreat on multiple fronts. After promising in May that the dispute over the timetable for the Brexit talks would be "the fight of the summer", David Davis capitulated on the first day.

The UK will be forced to settle matters such as EU citizens' rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill before discussions begin on a future relationship. Having previously insisted that a new trade deal could agreed by 29 March 2019 (Britain's scheduled departure date), the Brexiteers have now conceded that this is, in Liam Fox's words, "optimistic" (translation: deluded). 

That means the transitional arrangement the Leavers once resisted is now regarded as inevitable. After the eradication of the Conservatives' majority, the insistence that "no deal is better than a bad deal" is no longer credible. No deal would mean the immediate return of a hard Northern Irish border (to the consternation of the Tories' partners the DUP) and, in a hung parliament, there are no longer the votes required to pursue a radical deregulatory, free market agenda (for the purpose of undercutting the EU). As importantly for the Conservatives, an apocalyptic exit could pave the way for a Jeremy Corbyn premiership (a figure they previously regarded as irretrievably doomed). 

Philip Hammond, emboldened by the humiliation of the Prime Minister who planned to sack him, has today outlined an alternative. After formally departing the EU in 2019, Britain will continue to abide by the rules of the single market and the customs union: the acceptance of free movement, European legal supremacy, continued budget contributions and a prohibition on independent trade deals. Faced with the obstacles described above, even hard Brexiteers such as Liam Fox and Michael Gove have recognised that the game is up.

But though they have lost battles, the Leavers are still set to win the war. There is no parliamentary majority for a second referendum (with the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats still enfeebled), Hammond has conceded that any transitional arrangement would end by June 2022 (the scheduled date of the next election) and most MPs are prepared to accept single market withdrawal. The prospect of Britain avoiding Brexit, or even a "hard" version, remains doubtful. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.