Nadine Dorries' adventure in the jungle looks like it has backfired spectacularly. Will she be able to survive the backlash to come?
It had begun even before I'm A Celebrity started. "She's not a celebrity," one of her miffed constituents said to the television camera in his face. "She's an MP." That summed up the mood. The public and the pundits condemned her decision to take a month off from the grind of life in Westminster. Politicians took swipes at her whenever possible, using her as an example of the pressing need to give voters a 'recall' option if they disapprove of the behaviour of their MP. Dorries has been suspended from the Tory party whip and faces a difficult meeting on her return to the Commons. She may even be deselected by her local party for the 2015 election.
You couldn't blame her for wondering: was it really worth all that grief, just to have the pleasure of chomping on an ostrich anus and having one's shorts invaded by creepy-crawlies?
The Mid-Bedfordshire MP's defence goes something like this: 'I was going on I'm A Celebrity to get a big audience to talk about the issues that matter.' Her unusual tactic for getting their attention sets her apart from the 649 other inhabitants of the Palace of Westminster. But to the eyes of the public she remains a politician at heart. For Dorries has one personality trait which, without a shadow of a doubt, puts her wholly in line with your average member of parliament: an insatiable craving for publicity.
As Oscar Wilde didn't say, to go on one reality TV show looks like a misfortune; to go on two looks like carelessness. Her 2010 appearance on Tower Block Of Commons backfired after it emerged she had 'cheated' by giving her host a wad of banknotes to help her out. Just a couple of years later her curiosity towards the world of primetime TV has emerged once again. The opportunity was there, and she took it.
The public recognised this. They did not fall for her gabblings about raising important issues like abortion. Here was another MP, keen to self-promote. They're all in it for themselves, aren't they? The British public can be relied upon to cast a negative vote against MPs whenever the opportunity arises. So at the first opportunity, the professional politician was given the boot.
Had the public tried to examine her credentials a little more closely, they would have realised she is on their side in resisting the charms of Britain's powerful ruling elite. Dorries has developed an anti-establishment strain in recent years, culminating in her outspoken attack on David Cameron and George Osborne as "arrogant posh boys" who don't understand the lives of ordinary people. That may have been a response to Cameron calling her "frustrated" in the bearpit atmosphere of prime minister's questions — a humiliating put-down with sexual overtones that was completely uncalled for. Since then she has become increasingly hard to control — as flying off halfway around the world demonstrated only too well.
There is more than a grain of truth in Cameron's 'frustrated' tag, however. An unfortunate side-effect of reality TV is that the public do gain something of an insight into the inner thoughts of the subject. "I realised the day I came in here I stopped laughing the day I became a politician," she reflected while on I'm A Celebrity. Her life in Westminster does seem to be dragging her down. Last month, before heading off down under, she admitted to politics.co.uk that her Christian faith was waning as a result of spending time in parliament. "It's such a cynical world," she declared. "It's very hard to be a practising Christian in parliament. I think it's almost impossible, actually." These were not the words of someone completely comfortable with their life.
Dismissed by the public as yet another politician, yet rejected by her colleagues in parliament as a rogue element to be laughed at rather than taken seriously: it's no wonder Dorries is having something of an identity crisis.
She will be wondering, more than anyone, where the future takes her. She is close to being rejected outright by all concerned, which limits her options in the future and makes her prospects far from bright. After all, did George Galloway's now legendary appearance on Celebrity Big Brother make any material difference to his career? He continued to be an outspoken misfit, capable of generating headlines but never attracting widespread admiration.
It almost doesn't matter whether the Conservatives decide they could do with her vote and end her suspension of the parliamentary party. If she is rejected one last time she may decide to sit as an independent — a situation arguably more appropriate for her now — or decide to jump on the bandwagon of Ukip's rising star.
The most likely outcome for Nadine, regardless, is a begrudging return to her former life as a misfit parliamentarian. Neither beloved by her party nor her voters, she will continue to pursue her confused personal brand from the backbenches. Hers is ultimately a sad tale, but at least it is a fascinating one. That's more than can be said for many of those who sit on the green benches of the Commons.