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A campaign to force ‘absentee MP’ Nadine Dorries to attend parliament or face a by-election this autumn is being led by the chairman of the House of Commons standards committee.
Labor MP Sir Chris Bryant told the Financial Times he wanted to see the reinstatement of a parliamentary rule from 1801 stating that ‘no member shall presume to leave the city without leave of this House’, with the aim to force Dorries to follow through on her vow to resign.
The Mid Bedfordshire MP and former Culture Secretary has angered opposition MPs and some Tory colleagues by remaining in office since announcing on June 9 that she would step down ‘with immediate effect’ in protest against not having received the peerage from former Prime Minister Boris. Johnson’s Resignation Honors List.
Dorries – whose claim that Rishi Sunak’s administration blocked her nomination ‘to punish Boris’ has been rejected by Downing Street – insists she is delaying her exit from the Commons while she seeks more information on the process regarding his appointment to the peerage.
However, critics say Dorries was not fully involved in the business of Parliament long before he promised to step down. According to House of Commons records, she has not spoken in the House of Commons since July last year or worked on a select committee or bill committee.
Records also show Dorries has only voted on the legislation four days in the past year, most recently in April. There are no penalties for MPs, who earn a base salary of £86,580, for not taking part in the Commons.
Criticizing Dorries as an “absentee MP”, Bryant said that when MPs return to Parliament in September it would be “perfectly legitimate.” . . to table a motion saying that the MP for Mid Bedfordshire – and, for that matter, anyone else who has not appeared for six months – must be present on such and such a date or be suspended from the House for 10 days from session or more”.
The proposal, which Bryant said he presented to the government and labor whips, is detailed in his new book, Code of Conduct: Why We Need to Fix Parliament — and How to Do It.
He explained the rule: “If the Chamber appointed you, you had to attend. So when William Smith O’Brien refused to sit on a railroad committee in 1846, the House had him detained overnight in the clock tower cell.
A 10-day suspension from the Commons would trigger a recall petition, giving local Dorries voters the chance to vote for a by-election. Bryant acknowledged that his decision could become “completely pointless” if Dorries chooses to step down and bring about a by-election herself.
When asked this week if Dorries was letting his constituents down, the Prime Minister told LBC: ‘I think people deserve to have an MP who represents them, wherever they are. Sunak added, “At the moment people are not properly represented.”
Last month Flitwick Borough Council in Mid Bedfordshire expressed ‘concern and frustration at the situation’ and urged Dorries to ‘release the seat immediately’.
In an open letter, the council accused Dorries of focusing on his talk show on the TalkTV television network, a forthcoming book and ‘political maneuvering to embarrass the government for not appointing you to the House of Lords’ , rather than representing voters.
Noting that Dorries had not spoken to the Commons since July 2022, he added that she had not managed to have surgery in the city since March 2020 and had not maintained a constituency office “for a considerable time “.
Dorries has been contacted for comment.