Nadine Dorries, and the rubbish she talks.

This post was written by Reuben Bard-Rosenberg on May 17, 2009
Posted Under: Uncategorized

When I want something to laugh at, I often find myself reading the blog tory MP Nadine Dorries. With her repeated evocations of ‘common sense’ she comes across as a thick version of William Hague (late 1990s version). Particularly entertaining, however, has been her response to the questions put to her over her expenses.

A few days ago, the Telegraph put a series of questions/allegations to her. In her wisdom she decided to do the opposite of contrite. She posted the letter she had been sent on her blog, along with a super confident, super angry, im-not-conceding-anything reponse. Her post was peppered with irritated sentences written in capital letters (think 14 year old on an online gaming forum), although looking at the blog right now it would appear that someone has given her a bit of good advice and she has switched the caps to lower case.

Yet when comes to her claims, the picture is not as pretty as Nadine’s assertive self-righteousness would suggest. Dorries currently claims a second homes allowance for a property in Bedfordshire – where she a constituency MP. The people at the telegraph, however, wisehed to determine where exactly she considered here ‘main’ home to be.

Her response was as follows:

“I have no intention of exposing every detail of my private existence, what little I have, on this blog. However, needs must. I rent a house/office/ surgery in my constituency… On the weekends I have free, and during the recess, I go somewhere else. I am not publishing the address.”

This, of course was in spite of assurances in the Telegraph’s letter that they would NOT publish her address. She couldn’t say where her second home was because this was a matter of privacy.

By Saturday, she continued to claim that she had been reluctant to discuss the location of her second home for reasons of ‘privacy’, but nonetheless felt compelled to now disclose that it was in the Cotswolds. This particularly detail was submerged in alot of irrelevant schmultzy tripe about what she does/did there:

‘The rest of the time during weekends I finished work and spent my time in the Cotswolds preparing the week’s meals for my daughter, washing and ironing school uniforms, changing sheets, checking homework, and leaving to drive back to Bedfordshire’

Nonetheless, the issue here is clear. I would have thought the reason for MPs to have to homes is fairly obvious. They need to work and vote in westminster and they also need to have a base in their constituency. Of course the Cotswolds is in neither Loolndon or Bedfordshire. The justification for two homes, as far as I can tell – is that she likes to live in one place, but needs to work in another. So would many of us.

Her failure to locate her her homes in her place of work is not without expense (to the taxpayer). As David Reeves notes over at Liberal Conspiracy she has claimed thousands and thousands for commuting from Bedfordshire to London – and some of this travel would surely be unnecessary if, like most MPs, the location of her MAIN home bore some relation to where she was expected to work. It would seem obvious to any reasonable person why Dorries was coy about locations of her homes. But she continues to insist that it was about protecting her own privacy and that of her lovely daughters.

I would not, however, simply suggest this is a question of greed. Having read quite a number of her posts, and those specifically concerning expenses, I honestly wonder if she is not perhaps too thick to get what the issue is.

One of the questions The Telegraph put to her was as follows:

‘When you moved out of your flat in Westminster, the fees office demanded repeatedly that you repay the £2,190 deposit but you did not and eventually they docked your rent claims in order to recoup the money. Please explain why you did not repay the deposit when asked.”

She responded by explaining that the Landlord was ‘dodgy’ and didn’t give back the deposit even though the flat was in pristine condition. She goes on to say that she gave up on trying to get the deposit back and that the the fees office ‘should have chased the landlord for it.’

This is all well and good, but what on earth does she think hundreds of thousands of other people do when they are faced with dodgy landlords who wont return deposits. The idea that, if she cant (be bothered to) win back her deposit, its up to the taxpayer to make up the shortfall, and the civil servants in the fees office to chase up whoever her landlord was, is obscene. Yet it is something she confidently and self-righteously proclaims.

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Reader Comments

Tendai

I think people are incorrectly conflating different issues in this expenses things. The objection surely isn’t “oh but ordinary people don’t have those luxuries”. That’s argumentationally irrelevant. People have turned this into a confused, populist attack, the substance of which amounts to “why should they have easy lives [on public money]“.

That’s a false conjunction of two separate issues:
1. Why should they have easy lives [a complaint that's irrelevant to the real point of criticism; it's simply a trope]
2. Why should they fund a *lifestyle* on public money

The second of those complaints is, I’d say, relevant. But then the distribution of fault changes when the complaint is understood in that way:

Let’s assume there’s no need to make an argument for why MP allowances are necessary, and accept that they are. They perform some gnerally useful function regardless of how specific individuals use it.

We can accept that MPs are therefore at least *conditionally* entitled to an allowance (i.e. if they fall within the formal criteria for claiming. Drawing an analogy with means-testing, somebody may be formally/superficially entitled to a pecuniary benefit on the basis of income, regardless of other possibly-relevant factors).

But any conditional system of distribution is easily manipulable: you simply replicate the formal requirements of the system, within your specific circumstances, even if it isn’t substantively deserved (e.g. designating your ‘second home’ as your mother’s house or something).

Does the system allow you to do that, without being corrupt? Yes. Corruption and bad faith aren’t the same thing. When you give somebody a lax rule, you justify the choices they make to maximise that rule. Exploiters of a lax rule don’t shoulder the culpability, they share it with the rule’s overseers. Therefore the system’s broken, and MPs taking advantage of that are formally blameless, but of course it’s not very public-spirited. Immoral might be too strong, but improprietous would be about right.

There’s a valid objection to public funding for private lifestyles: the public funding’s purpose is a minimal one, namely, to enhance the functional efficacy of MPs. I agree with this argument, strongly. Therefore, choice: do we abolish the allowance, or prescribe its use more closely? But then again, there are very few jobs that require having two lives, in two separate localities.

Abolishing it would probably be undesirable, so the next choice is to prescribe its use. But then how do we prescribe its use without being excessively intrusive on MPs and their privacy and right to financial autonomy?

A third idea would be to impose restrictions on what kinds of goods and services it may be used for. Maybe some kind of ‘spending-penalty’ that forces better judgment on expenditure requirements. But go too far down that road and you risk making politics unattractive to anyone but the rich. I still do favour a minimalist expenses system. The existing one appears, on some grounds, to be needlessly generous.

Personally, I think the system just needs to be better audited and the expenses claimable, diminished. Ultimately, though, we have to accept that Parliament, like any large modern institution, needs to provide a certain degree of convenience, through an allowance system. That this allowance system happens to be publically funded, is no more relevant to its moral status than the Prime Minister’s salary. All these issues need to be kept separate.

#1 
Written By Tendai on May 18th, 2009 @ 1:57 pm
David Titchmarsh

If any further proof were needed that the Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire is being less than open with her so called ‘explanation’, then the following is from her website, 22nd September 2005. It speaks for itself.

http://www.dorries.org.uk/Story.aspx?ID=14

Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Beds, and her family are to make their new home in Woburn.

“The decision was very much taken out of my hands by the kids” said Nadine. “They fell in love with the town and it didn’t matter where else we went they kept coming back to Woburn.

As any parent will know, a move is a huge thing especially 3 lively girls. It helps with the process when the children have a big say and feel they an input in to what is happening.

It also makes sense logistically. My constituency office is in Shefford and I am in the House of Commons four nights a week so it is manageable”.

#2 
Written By David Titchmarsh on May 18th, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

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