Coffee House's Isabel Hardman has the news of Nadine Dorries's return, and has penned a passionate defence of her position, arguing that Dorries is the victim of double standards, and that she is very popular with her colleagues.
On the first ground, Isabel is right. She points out that Brian Binley has called the Prime Minister a
‘chambermaid’ and a ‘caretaker’, and Tim Yeo has asked whether Cameron is a man or a mouse.
I am less sure about the second. Very few MPs are universally popular among their colleagues, and I wouldn't mark Dorries down as one of them.
None the less, popularity among Conservative MPs isn't and shouldn't be the basis upon which the Whip is granted or withheld.
So why, given the resistance from George Osborne that Tim Montgomerie referred to earlier this week on this site, has the Whip been restored? I suspect there are three reasons:
- The sense among many Tory backbenchers, whether they like Dorries or not, that her semi-permanent suspension was unjust. (And that if it could be applied to her, it might one day be applied to them…)
- The speculation about Dorries defecting to UKIP. She has been very clear that she is a Conservative, and wants to stay a Conservative. But those senior Tories who think it's better to have her inside the tent will have been unnerved by the rumours.
- The emergence of the appeals procedure. Dorries would have had the right of appeal to a tribunal of three people appointed by the Chairman of the '22 and the Chief Whip. The role of the former will have made some in Downing Street a bit nervous.
At any rate, this is the right decision, for the reasons I set out over the weekend. Dorries is a gut Tory, a net asset to the Party, and a courageous Parliamentary campaigner – besides adding to the gaiety of nations.
The Whips are naturally keen to claim that they're not backing down, and a statement has been issued saying that Dorries has "apologised to the Chief Whip for absenting herself from her
parliamentary duties without permission". One senior source spoke of her being set "targets".
At any rate – welcome back, Nadine.
6.45pm Update Dorries tweets that "my whip has been restored with no conditions other than those which apply to any party MP". And my source texts to explain that the targets "are not forward-looking, but was a word used about our expectations from last autumn about her rebuilding bridges with her constituents/association/parliamentary colleagues". Hmm.
P.S: Someone is very keen to make his view on all this very clear. See below…