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Chris Bryant Wants To Resurrect Two Hundred Year Old Rule To Oust Nadine Dorries

Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she would quit her seat in the Commons but two months on is still an MP (Alamy)

5 min read

Chair of the Commons standards committee Chris Bryant has threatened to try to resurrect an arcane parliamentary rule to force Nadine Dorries out of parliament after the MP failed to formally resign, despite announcing her intention to do so in June.

Bryant mocked the former culture secretary, and said she “doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the words with immediate effect”. 

Speaking to PoliticsHome podcast The Rundown podcast, Bryant echoed frustration across Westminster and among her constituents in Bedfordshire that she had not yes fulfilled her promise to stand down. 

“I know she's a notorious publisher of fiction, but even so," he said. "Take all the Westminster bubble out of it, ordinary voters just go what on earth are you on about, how can you not turn up for work?”.

Dorries posted on social media on 9 June that she would step down and trigger a by-election after failing to get a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list. She later said she would not formally resign until she got more information about why she was not elevated to the House of Lords, claiming "sinister forces" were at play, but has faced calls to quit - including from within her own party.

Bryant has now said he wants to see the restoration of a parliamentary rule from 1801 stating that “no member do presume to go out of town without leave of this House”, and use it to form the basis of a plan to oust her anyway.

He said he happened across the rule while researching his new book, Code of Conduct Why We Need to Fix Parliament – and How to Do It, on how to improve conduct in Parliament, adding that one of the absurdities of Parliamentary procedure is that there isn’t even a way to formally resign.

“That's because we passed the motion way back when in the Stuart era, which says you cannot resign as an MP,” Bryant explained.

“But we then later passed a motion about 80 years later, which said, if you are given an office of profit under the crown, ie a paid job, then you are automatically disqualified as an MP.”

If an MP wants to step down then the Treasury has to award them the role either of the Manor of Northstead or the Steward and Bailiffs of the Chiltern Hundreds.

“Now, you could say isn't that sweet and lovely, but then we had this bizarre moment when [former Sinn Féin president] Gerry Adams wanted to resign,” Bryant said.

“So he wrote to the Chancellor and says I want to resign, and the Chancellor made him crown steward. 

“Now he's [an Irish] Republican, and he's quite rightly said ‘well I don't want to be a crown anything’, and even more bizarrely of course, when Owen Paterson theoretically resigned, he was given an office of profit under the crown, despite having been involved in paid lobbying. 

“So right, really simple thing; so why don't we just have a simple thing where you write to the Speaker and say, ‘I'm resigning’.”

Chris Bryant
Labour MP and chair of the Committees on Standards and Privileges, Chris Bryant (Parliament.UK)

In his new book Bryant also claimed he had been groped by multiple MPs since entering Parliament in 2001, leading Dorries to accuse him of “publicity seeking”.

“Ahh, Chris Bryant has a book out – well, I never. This latest bout of publicity seeking was so unlike him. All is now clear,” she wrote on Twitter. 

Bryant replied to say his book was “about politics and MPs doing their jobs”.

“It’s not fiction. When are you either turning up or resigning ‘with immediate effect’?,” he wrote. 

Last week the Prime Minister also called on Dorries to formally resign, saying her constituents were not being properly represented.

“I think people deserve to have an MP that represents them, wherever they are," Sunak said during an LBC phone-in. 

“It’s just making sure your MP is engaging with you, representing you, whether that’s speaking in parliament or being present in their constituencies doing surgeries, answering your letters. 

“That’s the job of an MP and all MPs should be held to that standard.”

The immigration minister Robert Jenrick said on Wednesday it was time for her to quit, telling Sky News: “I think being a Member of Parliament is a special privilege. You sign up for a term in office.

“If you decide you want to leave Parliament for whatever reason, you need to get on and do that.

“I don’t think that Nadine Dorries’ constituents are being properly represented. I hope she’ll reach that conclusion soon.”

A banner demanding “Dosser Dorries Out” has gone up in her constituency this week, after the local council has demanded she stands down over what they described as her "continuing lack of representation" for the area.

Flitwick Town Council said in a strongly-worded letter: "You have not maintained a constituency office for a considerable time and it's widely understood that you have not held a surgery in Flitwick since March 2020.

"Rather than representing constituents, the council is concerned that your focus appears to have been firmly on your television show, upcoming book and political manoeuvres to embarrass the government for not appointing you to the House of Lords.”

Dorries, a successful author, has written a book titled The Plot: The Political Assassination Of Boris Johnson, which is due to be published days before the Conservative Party conference this autumn.

 

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