Did Nadine Dorries achieve her political ends by appearing in ‘I’m a Celebrity’?

Rebecca Lewis

After two weeks in the jungle, Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, received the sort of public vote she must have been secretly dreading. Being the very first contestant to be sent home on ITV reality show 'I'm a Celebrity...' would suggest her bid to make politicians more likeable to the British public at large had failed badly. Did Ms Dorries manage to salvage anything from her stint in the jungle?

A little over a fortnight ago, the outspoken Tory MP shocked Westminster when she announced her surprise trip to Australia and it was immediately clear what her colleagues in the Commons thought of her decision. Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs alike castigated Ms Dorries for her reality show aspirations. It was not long before the whip was suspended from her.

The reasons she gave for appearing on the show were laid out at length in a Conservative Home blog post she wrote and published the day the first installment of the show aired, and she re-iterated her intent both in the jungle (to fellow contestants) and in the immediate aftermath of her ejection. 

She wrote: "When I read that more people watch the X-Factor final than voted in the general election, it is something I pondered on.

"The majority of people don't look to Westminster and they don't buy newspapers, as the distribution figures show us. They do however surf the net, watch popular TV and engage with reality shows. If that is where sixteen million people are, it's where politicians need to be too."

[ Related: Jungle MP: I DID have permission]

A desire to relate more to voters makes sense - it's even admirable.  But is eating lamb's testicles in a 'Bushtucker Trial' the best way to go about it?

No, according to a new poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft.

Out of 1,500 of her constituents canvassed a total of 58% registered their disapproval.

Lord Ashcroft – a former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party - said: "Leaving for Australia, [Dorries] said that taking part in ‘I'm A Celebrity…’ was a golden opportunity to communicate with 16 million people. Unfortunately, her 60,000 constituents didn't see it like that."

Of those polled 57% thought 'I'm a Celeb…' had not help her bring attention to her favoured issues.

[ Related: Evicted MP 'not so self-important']

In fact, while Ms Dorries claimed she had "fascinating conversations" in the jungle, it would seem they all ended up on the cutting room floor.

Perhaps chats about abortion time limits are not necessarily compatible with a light entertainment reality show - something she should have probably realised before she signed up.

Her stock has undoubtedly dropped since her stint on the show - her constituents told the Lord Ashcroft Poll they disliked her more than Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Furthermore, 58% agreed with the decision to suspend the whip from Ms Dorries. 

The question of whether she asked for time off to star in the reality show has brought former Chief whip Andrew Mitchell back into the limelight. Mr Mitchell denies Ms Dorries ever asked for permission to become an 'I'm a Celebrity...' contestant while he was still in office. Mr Mitchell, who resigned as the party whip last month after he was accused of swearing at the Downing Street police officers and calling them "plebs", is now involved in a strange war of words with Ms Dorries.

Like George Galloway and Lembit Opik before her, Ms Dorries has managed to make herself known to a wider public who don't regularly watch Prime Minister's Questions. 

And, to be fair to her, she did prove to millions of viewers that she is willing to be stuck in a box filled with creepy crawlies - something that would make many of us run for the hills.

The decision to appear on the show was in itself controversial and arguably ill-advised. What she actually did in the jungle was not.

So perhaps the only thing the public gained from Dorries's appearance on the show was that we found out Ms Dorries would "never" want to be Prime Minister "in a million years"... and that she

doesn't like eating the back-end of an ostrich. Which one of these revelations is more cause for celebration? You decide.

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