How will Nadine Dorries fare with the voters in 2015?

Forty five per cent of Tory voters say they are less likely to vote for her, but here's why she's likely to hang on.

Nadine Dorries last night became the first contestant to be voted off of I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here, but how will she fare with the public in 2015? A new survey by Lord Ashcroft, who is emerging as one of the country's most prolific pollsters, reveals much disquiet among her Bedfordshire constituents.

Fifty eight per cent, including 59 per cent of Conservative voters, disapproved of her decision to appear on the programme, compared to only 16 per cent who approved. Asked whether David Cameron was right to suspend her from the Conservative Party, 58 per cent, including 64 per cent of Tory voters, said he was. In addition, 44 per cent, including 45 per cent of Tory voters, said they were now less likely to vote for her. It doesn't follow, of course, that fewer will vote for her; only a small number of voters are likely to base their vote on Dorries's TV appearance, rather than, say, the economy. Indeed, a separate voting intention question found that support for the Tories had fallen by just two per cent since the general election to 51 per cent. Support for Labour, which finished third in the constituency in 2010, has risen by seven points to 22 per cent, while support for the Lib Dems, who finished second, has more than halved from 25 per cent to 12 per cent. Thus, with a Conservative lead of 29 per cent, Dorries is likely to be returned to parliament provided she can persuade the whips to let her back in the party.

Dorries's Bedfordshire constituents were asked to rank the following politicians on a scale of 0-10.

What is clear, however, is that her antics have significantly dented her popularity. Asked to say whether they have a positive or negative view of various politicians on a scale of 0-10 (see table), voters gave Dorries a score of just 2.82, compared to 3.48 for Nigel Farage, 3.95 for Ed Miliband, 4.02 for Nick Clegg, 6.13 for Boris Johnson, and, worst of all, 5.35 for that "arrogant posh boy" - David Cameron.

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who was voted out of ITV's I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here last night.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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On Brexit, David Cameron knows exactly what he's doing

It's not a dead cat - it's about disarming the Leave campaign. 

If you’re explaining, you’re losing. That’s the calculation behind David Cameron’s latest entry into the In-Out (or Remain-Leave in new money) battle. The Prime Minister has warned that were Britain to leave the European Union, the migrant camp at Calais – popularly known as “the Jungle” – could move to Britain. But Eurosceptic campaigners have angrily denounced the remarks, saying that there’s little chance of it happening either way.  

Who’s right? My colleague Henry Zeffman has written a handy explainer of the ins and outs of the row, but the short version is: the Eurosceptic campaigners are broadly right.

But the remarks are very far from a gaffe by Downing Street or Cameron, and they aren’t a “dead cat” strategy – where you say something offensive, prompting a debate about that instead of another, trickier issue – either.

Campaigners for Remain have long been aware that immigration remains their glass jaw. The line wheeled out by Cameron has been long-planned. Late last year, senior members of the In campaign discussed what they saw as the danger points for the campaign. The first was a renegotiation that managed to roll back workplace rights, imperilling the support of the Labour party and the trade unions was one – happily avoided by Cameron’s piecemeal deal.

That the deal would be raked over in the press is not considered a risk point. Stronger In has long known that its path to victory does not run through a sympathetic media. The expectation has long been that even substantial concessions would doubtless have been denounced by the Mail, Telegraph and Sun – and no-one seriously expected that Cameron would emerge with a transformative deal. Since well before the general election, the Prime Minister has been gradually scaling back his demands. The aim has always been to secure as many concessions as possible in order to get an In vote – but Downing Street’s focus has always been on the “as possible” part rather than the “securing concessions” bit.

Today’s row isn’t about deflecting attention from a less-than-stellar deal, but about defanging another “risk point” for the In campaign: border control.

Campaign strategists believe they can throw the issue into neutral by casting doubt on Leave’s ability to control borders any better. One top aide said: “Our line is this: if we vote to leave, the border moves from Calais to Dover, it’s that simple.” They are also keen to make more of the fact that Norway has equally high levels of migration from the European Union as the United Kingdom. While In will never “own” the issue of immigration, they believe they can make the battle sufficiently murky that voters will turn to the areas that favour a Remain vote – national security, economic stability, and keeping people in their jobs.

What the row exposes, rather than a Prime Minister under pressure is a politician who knows exactly what he’s doing – and just how vulnerable the lack of a serious heavyweight at the top makes the Leave campaign(s). Most people won't make a judgement based on reading up the minutinae of European treaties, but on a "sniff test" of which side they think is more trustworthy. It's not a fight about the facts - it's a fight about who is more trusted by the public: David Cameron, or Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling or Priti Patel? As one minister said to me: "I like Priti, but the idea that she can go against the PM as far as voters are concerned is ridiculous. Most people haven't heard of her." 

Leave finds itself in a position uncomfortably like that of Labour in the run-up to the election: with Cameron able to paint himself as the only option guaranteeing stability, against a chaotic and muddled alternative. Without a politician, a business figure or even a prominent celebrity who can provide credibility on the level of the Prime Minister, any row about whether or not Brexit increases the chances of more migrants on Britain’s doorsteps helps Remain – and Cameron. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.