UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate Nadine Dorries reality TV appearance

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Conservative United Kingdom MP Nadine Dorries is to face an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over her decision to appear on the reality television show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!. Earlier this week, the chief whip Sir George Young suspended the whip (expelled her from the party) until she returns to the United Kingdom.

Today on ITV's This Morning, David Cameron defended the suspension of the whip: "The chief whip took the view – and I back this completely – that she had made the decision to go out and do this programme and that meant she couldn't be in parliament, she couldn't represent her constituents and I think people do expect MPs to be doing either one or two of those things, particularly when parliament is sitting".

Dorries is to appear on the show alongside a variety of actors and actresses, sportsmen and entertainers including Helen Flanagan from Coronation Street, Charlie Brooks from EastEnders, Hugo Taylor from Made in Chelsea, Linda Robson from Birds of a Feather, Colin Baker from Doctor Who, Ashley Roberts (formerly of the Pussycat Dolls), darts champion Eric Bristow, boxer David Haye and comedian Brian Conley. Dorries could earn £40,000 from her appearance and could potentially spend up to a month away in Australia. The show features a variety of challenges including "gross-out" segments where the celebrity participants eat things such as insects, kangaroo testicles, and crocodile penises.

Dorries has defended her appearance on the show, telling the Daily Mail earlier in the week: "I'm doing the show because 16 million people watch it. Rather than MPs talking to other MPs about issues in Parliament, I think MPs should be going to where people go. I'm not going in there to upset people, but I have opinions. There are certain causes that I'm interested in, one of which is '20 Weeks'" (a reference to her view that the legal limit for abortion should be reduced from 24 to 20 weeks). "I will be talking about this issue around the campfire. I hope there will be some lively, heated debates."

Dorries later stated that her participation in the show would allow people to see that normal people can be politicians. "A lot of people don't vote and if they can see I am a normal mother who comes from a poor background and who didn't go to a posh school, they may think they can be a politician too. Maybe they will trust us more."

Should elected representatives appear on reality television shows?

A variety of political figures have criticised Dorries for choosing to go on the show. The health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "A lot of people are very worried about it. And I think we want MPs where they should be, voting in the House of Commons." Louise Mensch wrote an editorial for The Guardian lambasting Dorries: "Eating grubs and performing humiliating tasks on air are not consistent with being an MP – unless you're retired, or desperate."

The retired MP Ann Widdecombe, who appeared while an MP in Celebrity Fit Club and, after retiring, in Strictly Come Dancing, called the suspension "loony": "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."

On Twitter, Conservative MPs have reacted, with Claire Perry making a joke at Dorries's expense: "I'm not fit to be an MP – kick me out of here".