Could Nadine Dorries defect to UKIP?

Five months after the Conservative whip was suspended from the MP for Bedfordshire, it has still not been restored.

UKIP looks likely to gain upwards of 100 seats today, but one thing Nigel Farage's party still lacks is an MP. As Raf suggested earlier, the party's best hope of changing this in the short-term is a defection from the Tories, so it's worth asking: could Nadine Dorries be the first recruit? More than five months after the Conservative whip was suspended following her stint in the jungle, it has still not been restored. A Tory source told me recently that the whips office was "keen to bring Dorries back into the fold" but that No. 10 remained resistant. 

The MP for Bedfordshire has described UKIP's election success as "the day the political landscape significantly shifted" and has urged those "two arrogant posh boys" - David Cameron and George Osborne - to "reconnect with true Conservative values and work hard over the next two years to win back the core Tory vote".

If they want to avoid handing Farage the political gift of a defection, they might also want to consider reconnecting with Dorries. 

Update: It's worth remembering, of course, that UKIP has had an MP before: Bob Spink, who defected from the Conservatives in 2008. He went on to lose Castle Point to the Tories in 2010. 

Nadine Dorries was suspended from the Conservative Party after appearing on ITV's I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Dan Kitwood/Getty
Show Hide image

I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.