Dorries suspended over reality show
Nadine Dorries has been suspended as an MP by the Conservative Party after leaving Westminster to take part in reality TV show I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Chief whip Sir George Young took the decision because of concerns that she will not be doing parliamentary and constituency work while she is in Australia for up to four weeks.
Ms Dorries came under a hail of criticism from fellow Tory MPs when it emerged that she had signed up for the show, which returns to ITV1 on Sunday and her constituency chairman said that a special meeting of Conservative Association members in Mid-Bedfordshire would be called to decide whether any action should be taken against her.
But her suspension was branded "loony" by former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe, who said it made Tory whips look heavy-handed and could backfire on the party if the 55-year-old MP proves popular with millions of viewers.
"If Nadine does get it right out there, they have got themselves into a very silly situation," said Miss Widdecombe. "Why on earth couldn't they have said it is a matter between Dorries and her constituents and left it at that? Silly, silly idiots."
A Conservative spokesman said that the Tory whip would remain suspended until Ms Dorries speaks to Sir George after her return to the UK. No date has yet been set for the meeting.
"George Young has suspended the whip from Nadine Dorries. He will have an urgent meeting with her when she gets back," said the spokesman. "The concern is that she will not be doing parliamentary or constituency business in the meantime."
Ms Dorries, who earns more than £65,000 as an MP, has flown out to Brisbane to prepare for the programme. She also stands to pick up a fee for appearing.
She justified her decision to take part, telling The Sun: "I'm doing the show because 16 million people watch it. If people are watching I'm A Celebrity, that is where MPs should be going. I'm not going in there to upset people, but I have opinions."
The former nurse, who entered Parliament in 2005, has been a persistent backbench critic of Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, once branding them "arrogant posh boys". There was some speculation in Westminster that she may not seek to return to the Tory fold - and could even defect to the UK Independence Party.