Lunch with... Nadine Dorries
Mid Bedfordshire MP and the Tories’ ‘prodigal daughter’ chats to Anoosh Chakelian about MPs with egos, the final ebb of the coalition, and a whole lot of ‘idiots’.
This article is from the July 2013 issue of Total Politics
Outspoken right-winger, one-time I’m a Celebrity jungle dweller, Tory-UKIP dallier and Cameron critic, Nadine Dorries is one of the most prominent Conservative backbenchers in the public eye. She was suspended from the whip for her jungle debut until early May, when she was welcomed back into the party fold.
A glistening, pristine restaurant in the St James Theatre complex that looks more like the interior of a swanky hotel than an artistic hub. The place is defined by an enormous chunky white staircase, built in Italy with Carrara marble.
Starter Cauliflower soup of the day; white bait.
Main ‘Carrara Classic’ penne rigate all’arrabbiata; Fillet steak.
Dessert No room for dessert, but the artisan cheese selection looked good.
We drank Elderflower pressé; sparkling water.
Reality TV I’m a Celebrity was a grounding experience; any ego I had was taken away from me. I think it [the show] should take an MP a year. I definitely would do more reality stuff. My constituents absolutely love it, because they’ve got someone of their own, who they see in Tesco, on there… I’d love to do Strictly Come Dancing – who knows?
Boris Johnson He will be a leader of the Tory Party, there’s no doubt. He’s won two major elections, and nobody else in the party matches that at the moment. We would be idiots not to have Boris. He’d take the party back to the highlands again pretty easily.
Extra-curricular activities I’ve just finished writing a book. I’m not allowed to talk about it, but I loved writing it. [TP asks if it is fact or fiction]. It’s ‘faction’ – it’s about Liverpool in the ‘50s. I can’t say anything about it, but it was a very cathartic experience.
Coalition It’s grinding down now, isn’t it? It’s at its final ebb. Both parties are ticking off the days. Liberal Democrats are further left than the Labour Party, so there was never going to be much room for manoeuvre. David Cameron has described himself as a “social liberal” – to me that’s what Lib Dems are, which is interesting…
UKIP I’d have exactly the same values as the UKIP candidates standing against me [in 2015]. I voted against increases to EU budgets, I voted for an EU referendum as soon as possible, I’m pro-grammar schools, I’m pro-reducing immigration – it would make sense to talk about at least a joint candidacy.
Female journalists The vast majority of political journalists are male. It’s the men supporting the men writing about the men. What females there are – Camilla Long, Alice Thomson, Jan Moir – are so vitriolic and attacking of other women that it is defeatist, anyway. You wouldn’t want those kinds of female journalists in the lobby. They do women politicians no favours whatsoever… It’s hardly the sisterhood, is it?
Corrupt MPs I can’t believe there are any MPs stupid enough [to accept money from lobbyists]. I’m horrified. I don’t understand why Patrick [Mercer] did that; he must have been in a desperate financial situation. MPs and political journalists have ego issues. Whether there’s a hubris-type situation that arises as a result of that manifestation of ego, I’m not sure.
2015 prospects I understand it’s important to put out the message that we’re going to have a Conservative majority with Cameron… [but] the people who say that are foolhardy and setting themselves up to look like idiots. There’s an element of political naivety and delusion; it shows disconnect from the general public. We have to do better over the next two years. There’s everything to play for.
Hair loss It’s part of you, it defines you, it’s who you are. It’s like your breasts, like when women have mastectomies; they go through the same kind of femininity-losing grieving process. When you lose your hair you go through the same grieving process, and it’s pretty horrific really. I realise I’m going to be bald soon. Whereas in your twenties you can rock that look, you can’t do it when you’re in your fifties like I am, and you can’t do it in my job. I know Mo Mowlam rocked that look when she had chemo, but it is a very difficult thing to do.
Real life v politics What has always concerned me are how issues affect people’s daily lives rather than the actual making of the policy. That’s always been - how people’s lives are impacted by whatever it is that we in government do. For me, it kind of leaves me a bit dry to have an anodyne debate in Parliament about policy.
Swivel-eyed loons I often think that if politicians behaved in a way which put people first, rather than politics and parties, things would find their own level which would be right for them. But they don’t. They put what they see to be political progression or party progression above people, above the needs or considerations of any individual. I think that’s the wrong thing. Instead of allegedly Andrew Feldman calling our activists ‘swivel-eyed loons’, if somebody had made a statement that said what fantastic people the activists were and really appreciated them, things would just happen differently. But they don’t. I think the people value the party more [than the party values the people].
Anti-promotion I’d hate it, absolutely hate it [gaining higher office]. Imagine being the minister for paperclips and only being able to speak about paperclips, I’d hate it. I couldn’t actually think of anything worse. Look at ministers. They get a minister’s job and you never hear from them again.
Gay marriage They [Conservative voters] are confused about things like gay marriage. They don’t understand why we’re doing it. [They]’ve always voted Conservative and yet we’ve got a Conservative government, which is imposing wind farms on us and introducing gay marriage. What have we been working for for the last 20 years? There’s genuine hurt, very genuine… I was asked by gay couples in my constituency not to vote for it [same-sex marriage]. I thought, I’m a straight person, I can’t make a decision on this, I’ll ask not just my gay friends but my gay constituents. So I went to a shop I know is run by a gay couple in my constituency, I went to some activists, I went to a local residents’ group that is run by a gay couple. And they all said to me ‘don’t vote for this. This doesn’t give us any property rights [or] pension rights, it does nothing to give us equality, it is all about Westminster debate, political activists doing something the rest of us haven’t actually even asked for.’ These people aren’t even Conservatives, they’re just my constituents. [Why then is Cameron doing it?] A legacy? I’ve no idea.
The humanist agenda Can you imagine if you’re an elderly person in a hospital and you’ve been blocking a hospital bed? We’re going to get to the point where the state’s going to come along and say ‘we’re your next of kin, would you like to take a little pain [ie. painkillers] cocktail?’ You can almost see it. As they keep knocking down each taboo and each barrier, where is this going to end up? That’s where the humanists want it to go. The humanists think that we should have the power to end and start life when we want, so they don’t even believe that a child’s life is valid, until it can reason. Can you imagine where we are going with this? It’s kind of scary. The politicians and the media don’t really know as much as the people pushing the buttons do [humanists], so they are almost unwitting accomplices in breaking down barriers which will eventually lead to people being more vulnerable than they are today.
Lunchtime schmoozers already bored of the InterContinental down the road.
Not suitable for
Those looking for a varied light lunch menu; there’s not a great deal of choice.
The cost Most mains above £15.
Photo by Louise Haywood-Schiefer
To book a table at Carrara, call 020 7592 0348 and enjoy a complimentary bottle of house wine at lunch throughout June and July when you mention Total Politics magazine