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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From hard to soft to the “people’s Brexit”: Theresa May’s Britain is in one hell of a frightful mess

Nobody told me there’d be days like these.

Theresa May became Prime Minister only because of Brexit. Her insouciant predecessor, whose most substantial contribution to this year’s general election campaign was to tweet a photograph of his and his wife’s feet as they lay side by side in bed, resigned because of Brexit. May’s successor will become prime minister because of Brexit. The defining question of British politics is Brexit and its effects and consequences.

So much time, energy and anxiety are being wasted on Brexit, and for what? For Britain to negotiate a new relationship with the European Union that will be, in every way, inferior – socially, economically, culturally – to what we have already, and at a time of dangerous instability in the world, when a clown and braggart occupies the White House. Nobody told me there’d be days like these, as John Lennon once put it in a song popularised by his son Julian. Strange days indeed – most peculiar, mamma.

***

David Cameron’s decision to hold the 2016 referendum at the height of the worst refugee crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War was an act of spectacular folly by a politician who believed too much in the myth of his own good fortune (“Lucky Dave”, they called him). Michael Portillo has described it as the greatest blunder ever made by a British prime minister. After Cameron’s resignation last summer, Theresa May seemed like the only grown-up in a cabal of entitled and squabbling leadership contenders and Conservative MPs duly organised her coronation.

When she became Prime Minister, May delivered a fine speech in Downing Street: she would create a different, more communitarian, even post-liberal conservatism, and she would fight against “burning injustice”. She understood that the vote for Brexit was also a vote of protest against a failed economic model; against austerity, against stagnant wages and in-work poverty, and against ultra-globalisation. People were weary. “I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle,” May said. “The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.”

***

Opinion polls seemed to suggest that May was admired and trusted. She was cold and austere but she also seemed serious, and these were serious times. Yet May’s actions were never equal to her early rhetorical positioning and she never reached out to the many millions who had voted Remain and felt excluded.

By the time of the general election campaign, she was reduced to repeating soundbites and clichés. She had become the Maybot. The promising “Red Tory” language of the early months of her premiership – when she spoke about the common good and the need for greater social responsibility – had gone altogether. This is a source of much regret to her maligned former joint chief of staff Nick Timothy.

“My biggest regret,” he has said, “is that we did not campaign in accordance with the insight that took Theresa to Downing Street in the first place.” With her authority and confidence shattered, May will be gone soon: in seeking to deliver the hard Brexit her Eurosceptic supporters in the party and press demanded, she has succeeded only in creating more confusion and tumult.

***

May used to tell us with supreme wisdom that “Brexit means Brexit”. In her Lancaster House speech in January, she explained her preference for a “clean” Brexit (ie, Britain should leave the single market and customs union and be outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice). Her use of the word “clean” was philosophically very interesting, especially when you consider its opposite: dirty, as in a dirty or unclean Brexit.

One of the many satisfying outcomes of the general election was that it has reopened the possibility of an alternative to hard (or clean) Brexit, for which there is no mandate in the House of Commons. I have been keeping a note of the different kinds of Brexit that are being touted.

What is clear is that the adjectives “hard” and “soft”, when prefixed to Brexit, are now quite passé. Emboldened by the improbable revival of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson favours what she calls an “open” Brexit, and so now does the preposterous Boris Johnson, too, who waits like a big, overheated, hungry dog for the door of 10 Downing Street to open for him, the saliva of ambition dribbling from his mouth.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s serious-minded barrister supreme, is against what he calls an “extreme Brexit”, even if we are not sure what he is actually for, and the Guardian opposes what it calls a “chaotic Brexit”. Andrew Adonis, the Labour peer and educationalist, supports a “sane Brexit”. The Labour activist Sam Tarry wants a “people’s Brexit”. The commentator Philip Stephens has called for an “intelligent Brexit”, as one would expect of an FT panjandrum; and ­Jeremy Corbyn, a long-standing Eurosceptic who leads a party of parliamentary Remainers, wants a Brexit that protects jobs and workers’ rights. Perhaps we should call this a “Bennite Brexit”. Do please let me know if you spot any other variations.

***

My own preference – and I write having been no great enthusiast for the EU before the referendum – is for “no Brexit”, such is the mess into which this country has been dragged by a former Conservative prime minister who believed the simple mechanism of a binary plebiscite could settle an internal party dispute; one that had festered since Ted Heath took Britain into the European Economic Community in 1973. This as well as his desire to assuage the populism of Nigel Farage and appease his tormentors in the press: and all at the time of his own choosing. Strange days indeed – most peculiar, mamma.

Jason Cowley is editor of the New Statesman. He has been the editor of Granta, a senior editor at the Observer and a staff writer at the Times.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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