By Tim Montgomerie
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There has been lots of speculation over recent days about the future of Nadine Dorries. Some have speculated that she might join UKIP in protest at the fact that the whip still hasn't be restored to her – six months after it was suspended because she appeared on ITV's I Am A Celebrity programme. ConHome's sources say the whips are NOT the reason for her continuing exclusion from the parliamentary party. The block is coming from Downing Street – especially Number 11. Regular observers of Tory politics will know that the Chancellor and Nadine Dorries do not have the best of relationships.
Up until now it has been thought that the decision about Nadine Dorries' future was one for the party leadership and it had the power to continue to resist lobbying by the 1922 Committee for Ms Dorries' return to the Tory fold. Today's Times, however, draws attention to a parliamentary party rule that was instituted after Howard Flight was effectively removed from the parliamentary party by a very angry Michael Howard, then Tory leader, in the run up to the 2005 election. Tory MPs were so appalled that Mr Howard had the power to expel one of their colleagues without any appeal that they sought a new mechanism to prevent a repeat of the Flight case.
The rule means that Ms Dorries can appear before a tribunal of three people – appointed by the Chief Whip and Chairman of the 1922 – and have her case for restoration of the whip examined. She can only trigger the tribunal next November, however – six months before the date of the general election. Some in the whips office are wanting the matter resolved now, however. Their fear is a much longer delay to this episode risks looking sexist and even vindictive. The Tory leadership may not love Ms Dorries – in much the same way they don't much love many of the more 'Ukippy' Tory members – but keeping her in the tent is a small way of indicating that the party can be broadly-based.
More in The Times (£).
Paul Goodman has already made the case for an end to Nadine Dorries' suspension.