Nadine Dorries has set what many will see as a new low in parliamentary history by being the first serving MP from a major political party to take time out to appear on a ‘reality TV’ show.
The MP for Mid-Bedfordshire is already in Queensland preparing for her appearance on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here - and has announced that she has no intention of foregoing any of her £65,738 MP’s salary while she is out in the jungle receiving a fee expected to at least £40,000.
Ms Dorries, 55, reportedly said: “I've worked seven years as an MP and I've never taken a day off work in Parliamentary time. I've worked all through recess and I only had four days off this summer.
“Parliament is in half-term while I'm there. I've not done anything to prepare for the jungle. I worked right up until I left the UK for Australia.”
The Commons will be in recess for a week from 13 November, but her appearance could last longer than that..
She also told the Daily Mail: “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.”
Her reasoning is similar to that used by the Respect MP George Galloway, to justify his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006. He claimed that “politicians should use every opportunity to communicate with people” – though the only part of his appearance on the show that made any impression on the public was his impersonation of a cat.
The former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who made a brief appearance in the last round of “I'm a Celebrity…” before being voted off by viewers, has defended Ms Dorries’s decision to appear, and to draw her parliamentary salary at the same time.
The reaction from Twitter users and from Ms Dorries’s constituents, interviewed by BBC Three Counties Radio, was overwhelmingly negative. One voter told the BBC that it was “tacky” and that she did not want to see her MP in the jungle in her underwear.
The Tory MP Michael Fabricant, a vice chairman of the party, tweeted: “Rolling around in the mud with Nadine and eating scorpions in Queensland Australia is not my idea of fun.”
The former Tory MP Louise Mensch – who was herself criticised during her short time in Parliament for being overly fond of publicity – tweeted that there is “nothing sadder than a politician, or ex-politician, on any of those shows.”
Ms Dorries has been a constant rebel since entering Parliament in 2005, once describing David Cameron and George Osborne as “arrogant posh boys”. Her parliamentary career appeared to effectively over when the government introduced legislation that would have cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, but was saved when the Liberal Democrats to join Labour in blocking it.