Jane Merrick: Vote for the craggy face of experience


There is something exhilarating about seeing Nadine Dorries, a 55-year-old mother of three, standing hands on hips on top of a table on the House of Commons terrace in Manolo Blahnik heels and an Oscar de la Renta dress.

If politics were a Western – and with Clint Eastwood's appearance as Mitt Romney's warm-up act last week, it feels as if it is – then Mrs Dorries would be credited with having run her rival out of town. In one of her last interviews before leaving the UK to live in New York, Louise Mensch, the former MP for Corby, defended The Sun's decision to print pictures of a naked Prince Harry. Mrs Dorries fired back, accusing Mrs Mensch of being "void of principle". It was almost as if the town of Westminster was not big enough for the both of them, these two female Conservative MPs who have put their own passion for speaking their minds ahead of promotion.

It is possible to admire both Mrs Mensch and Mrs Dorries for not conforming to what David Cameron or party whips would prefer MPs to do, which is to keep their mouths shut and cross fingers for a ministerial seat, and it is a pity that British politics has lost the forthrightness of Mrs Mensch. But it is also hard to escape the feeling that the older woman, in these pictures for Tatler, has got the better of her more glamorous 41-year-old colleague, by staying the course.

When the Prime Minister unveils his reshuffle, there will be a beauty contest of youthful men and women from the 2010 Tory intake taking up junior posts. Mrs Dorries' attack on the PM and Chancellor as "arrogant posh boys" precludes any post under Cameron's leadership – not that she cares.

Two of the most colourful people in Westminster, until Mrs Mensch left, were female. But among the men, Vince Cable's popularity outstrips that of Nick Clegg, nearly 25 years his junior. Mr Cable recently declared that the "worship of youth" in political parties was subsiding, and I hope he is right. Some Tory MPs confidently predict that their next leader will be "uglier" than Mr Cameron: voters, tired of smooth-skinned whippersnappers will want the craggy face of experience.

In that other nest of vipers that is breakfast television, Lorraine Kelly, a 52-year-old sofa veteran, returns to our screens this week as the main presenter of ITV's Daybreak. Her predecessor, the slimmer, more glamorous Christine Bleakley, 33, left the show last year after becoming a ratings flop. TV is often derided for being a world where youth beats experience – especially, and unfortunately, for women – but not in this case. And who is the star of this summer's Olympics and Paralympics TV coverage? Not Gabby Logan, but Clare Balding, two years her senior and more horsey than clothes horse, who appeals to us by being as excited as we are.

Some will sneer at Mrs Dorries for posing in expensive outfits for a high society magazine. But, as the ambitious under-40s queue up for their ministerial red boxes this week, we should cheer the unsinkable Dorries, Kelly and Balding for fending off the tyranny of youth.

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