Nadine Dorries has re-announced her resignation as a Conservative MP, 78 days after she first said she was intending to stand down on 9 June. In a scathing statement published behind a paywall on the Daily Mail subscription service Mail +, Dorries condemned Rishi Sunak and his government. She wrote:
“Since you took office a year ago, the country is run by a zombie Parliament where nothing meaningful has happened. What exactly has been done or have you achieved? You hold the office of Prime Minister unelected, without a single vote, not even from your own MPs. You have no mandate from the people and the Government is adrift. You have squandered the goodwill of the nation, for what?”
There was confusion when Dorries first announced she was quitting as to when she would actually stand down. Boris Johnson and his ally Nigel Adams resigned at the same time, with the by-elections for their constituencies held in July. Dorries, however, did not formally resign, instigating speculation that she intended to time the subsequent Mid-Bedfordshire by-election to cause maximum damage and embarrassment for Sunak. That by-election is now due in late September, just before the Conservative Party Conference. The Liberal Democrat’s have their sights on the seat – the expected loss would be a humiliation for Sunak as he approaches his first party conference as Prime Minister.
Dorries announcement today harms Sunak in other ways too. Her statement draws attention to a number of fronts on which the PM is vulnerable to criticisms from Tories: high tax levels, the failure of levelling up and the promised social care plan, the perceived Brexit betrayal of the Windsor Framework, as well as the failure to meet myriad economic challenges facing Britain. Nor does she hold back from personal attacks, taking aim at Sunak’s wealth (“ You flashed your gleaming smile in your Prada shoes and Savile Row suit from behind a camera “), his “impatience” to become prime minister, and his “personal ambition”.
Dorries is a divisive figure in the Conservative Party. Her relentless campaigning for Boris Johnson in the midst of the partygate scandal and her insistence that the lack of a peerage she claims was promised was an issue of national importance has been a source of mockery among her colleagues. More recently, her apparent lack of engagement as an MP (she has not held a constituency surgery since March 2020) have led to calls for her to resign and allow the people of Mid Bedfordshire to be represented properly – not just from opponents in other parties but from leading Conservatives. Sunak himself told LBC earlier this month that “I think people deserve to have an MP that represents them wherever they are… At the moment, people aren’t being properly represented.” Banners appeared around the constituency in mid-August that labelled Dorries a “dosser”.
However, there are parts of her statement today that will resonate even among people who have never agreed with Dorries before. Her criticisms of the current government will ring true to many voters regardless of whether or not they have ever voted Tory. They will recognise the portrait she paints of an arrogant and remote prime minister. They may even agree with Dorries that Sunak has no real understanding of the challenges facing the nation, and that under his leadership, the country was now run by a “zombie parliament”.
Dorries ends her statement by accusing Rishi Sunak of having “abandoned the fundamental principles of Conservatism” and declares “History will not judge you kindly”.
If Sunak had hoped confirmation of her imminent departure as an MP would be one less problem for him to think about, he will be feeling disappointed tonight.