Appearing on reality TV shows is a career booster for many flagging stars, but when it comes to politicians, quite the opposite seems to be the case.
We’ve been watching I’m A Celebrity here at Nixdminx Towers because it’s pretty funny and of course we love to support our local heroes Ant and Dec. Another favourite feature of the shows is watching pampered celebrities grapple their way through maggots, rotting meat and creepie crawlies. This year, you’d be hard pushed not to know that the assembled group of actors, singers, reality stars and sportsmen has been embellished, or some may say disadvantaged, with the addition of a Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries.
Dorries states on her blog that she’s pretty straightforward and hardworking:
I was first elected as an MP for Mid Bedfordshire in May 2005 and my feet really haven’t touched the ground since. My background is one of nursing and business, broken by a spell of teaching in Africa. The mother of three daughters I am originally from Liverpool and arrived at my constituency via a long spell in the Cotswolds. When an MP I constantly drew upon skills learnt or gained during my pre political life. Never one to sit still, I have found the challenges Mid Bedfordshire has presented exhilarating> whoever told me it was a quiet rural constituency on the day I was first elected was obviously having a joke at my expense! A constituency of 77,000 homes there are plans afoot to increase this by a further 120,000. Preventing Mid Bedfordshire from being swamped by concrete remains my main focus and my biggest challenge.
While she doesn’t allude to her desire to appear on a reality show anywhere (which I’m sure is just an oversight), she does come across as pretty down to earth and no nonsense. I admit I felt a bit cynical when I heard she was going to appear on I’m A Celebrity to campaign about abortion and as the show began, I found her presence a little contrived in the first few episodes but she blended in well soon after. In one of the clips of ‘celebs in the jungle’ she was shown discussing the media frenzy about her appearance and how she was suprised about it all. She was blissfully ignorant of the media storm that was blustering away back home and that she’d been suspended by the Chief Whip for leaving her post for a month. Now that she’s out of the jungle and on UK soil, the next few days will see her grilled in public and private about the sojourn, while her commitment to politics and her constituents will be called into question.
While she’s brought acres of publicity to the show which is exactly what she intended to do, she’s quite the marmite character and has managed to conjure up as much controversy as constituent votes over time. She seems to have all the ingredients for success; she’s blonde, intelligent, hard working, ambitious, a working Mum, very opinionated and apparently, but she may be on the way out of politics for not following the correct procedures in getting ‘time off’.
Much as I’d like to cheer that with one more Conservative MP down, we’ve just a few more to go before the coalition collapses, I’m not really whooping from the sidelines on this one. Just a week after Cameron gave his keynote about ‘cutting through red tape’, one of his MPs is being hampered by it, although for very different reasons.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the misfortune to tune into the Parliament Channel, but those of you who have will find nothing more than a bunch of snoring suits and lots of empty seats. No wonder the British public feels disengaged with politicians. Dorries did the right thing by going on the show; she wanted to reach a wider audience, but did she do it for fame or to engage with the public? There’s a big difference and while the viewing figures are high, peaking at an audience high of 10 million this weekend, one wonders if politics and reality TV are such a good mix. I warmed to Dorries and as she left the Jungle and sat with Ant and Dec she seemed more human and less aloof, admitting that she felt like she had become herself again and started to remember how to laugh. Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the jungle will stand her in good stead for what’s to come. There’s no denying that she’s going to have to pay for appearing on I’m A Celebrity by eating a lot more than humble pie.
With the Conservative party dipping out further out of favour every day, Dorries has proved to be a bit of light relief, almost akin in fact to sticking someone in the stocks, but she’s done it all in good humour. How galling for Cameron and Osborne to see that this woman really does have the common touch, has reached through to a new audience and come across as quite a good egg; she’s an asset in many ways but it appears she’s on thin ice, finding herself in danger of being voted out and shown the door twice in as many weeks.
While I doubt she will be given her marching orders (she’s currently on a probationary period before being reinstated), especially after the recent Mensch by-election fiasco and Mitchell’s cyclical plebgate exit, one thing is assured, Nadine Dorries will be doing a bush tucker trial Westminster style under the watchful eye of the new Chief Whip Sir George Young, some time very, very soon.
When all the chatter dies down, it will be interesting to see how ‘brand Dorries’ fares. As the saying goes, never a dull day in politics, or the jungle for that matter.
Note: George Galloway, a much more controversial MP appeared on Celebrity Big Brother to generate awareness of himself was not suspended.
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