Nadine Dorries is set to delay her formal resignation as an MP until Parliament’s summer recess in a fresh headache for Rishi Sunak, it has emerged.
The decision by the former culture secretary - who on Friday said she would quit “with immediate effect” - could delay a contest to replace her until autumn, in the run up to the Tory party conference.
It poses a significant setback for the prime minister, prolonging the agony of a series of difficult by-elections for the Conservatives.
Boris Johnson announced his own shock exit just hours after Ms Dorries said she would quit, while fellow Boris ally Nigel Adams also said he would step down.
But while the former prime minister and Mr Adams completed the formal process of resigning as MPs on Monday – Ms Dorries is yet to do so.
Friends of Ms Dorries highlighted the case of Labour MP Rosie Cooper, who waited two months to formally resign after announcing she would go. One told the Daily Mail “it’s her prerogative when she decides to go”.
“She's not going to give Sunak the convenience of three by-elections on the same day,” the friend added.
Party leaders have been left frustrated, having wanted to minimise the potential fallout from the three by-elections.
They wanted to deal with the fallout – sparked by a row over Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list, and the ongoing Partygate probe into the former PM – as quickly as possible.
A Tory source told The Independent: “We don’t know why Nadine hasn’t resigned. She said she was going with ‘immediate effect’ on Friday afternoon before Boris and Nigel, but didn’t.
“But we don’t want to wait around, we want to get on with these things.”
The Liberal Democrats were quick to highlight how a “long summer campaign” led to a major defeat for the Tories in a 2021 byelection.
A spokesman said: “As Chesham and Amersham showed, a long summer campaign in the Blue Wall only ends one way for the Conservatives. We are dusting off that playbook.”
Ms Dorries’s decision to quit came after she was passed over for a peerage in Mr Johnson’s resignation honours list.
The delay to her resignation sparked fears she could be seeking to undermine Mr Sunak, having accused him of “cruelly” blocking her from a future in the House of Lords
Ms Dorries claimed the prime minister was a “privileged posh boy” who, in cahoots with his political aide James Forsyth, “duplicitously and cruelly” stopped her from joining the House of Lords.
Her delay could sow unrest in the party by pushing a difficult by-election into the autumn and closer to the Conservative Party conference.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats are vying to claim a high-profile win in the historically safe Tory seat - which has been held by Conservative MPs since 1931.
By remaining on the backbenches, Ms Dorries could also be a thorn in Mr Sunak’s side by speaking out or voting against his government’s plans.
However, if Ms Dorries tenders her resignation soon, the party could still move to have all three by-elections on July 20.
It came as Ms Dorries said it was “utter nonsense” to suggest Mr Johnson knew her peerage had been rejected “as long ago as February”, as was suggested by government sources on Tuesday.
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