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British Ex-Cabinet Minister Does Quiet Quitting - Is There Any Precedent!?
After formally announcing her intention to resign as a Member of Parliament last month, Nadine Dorries has yet to actually resign her position, has this ever happened before?
In the middle of June the ruling Conservative Party was rocked by 3 major resignations. Former Prime Minister and Westminster’s 500 lb gorilla, Boris Johnson, was the first to step down in lieu of facing the humiliation of losing his next election or getting a public flogging for lying to Parliament. (Actually which one is worse?) The smallest was certainly the resignation of Nigel ‘who is he’ Adams, in solidarity with BoBo the Chimp. But the most unusual resignation had to have been that of long time Boris ally, Nadine Dorries. The former culture minister who has her finger on the trend-pulse heard of this quiet quitting thing, but seemed to overlook the ‘quiet’ part.
Dorries ‘resigned’ with fury when she hadn’t been granted the peerage Johnson had lined up for her in his resignation honours. ‘Why not?’, she demanded. ‘I quit!’, she exclaimed. ‘Don’t look at me,’ Sunak shape-shifted. ‘Your name wasn’t on the list we got’ claimed the committee.
As if that was not enough the ‘Please God, not another by-election’ team over at Sunak central apparently decided no sitting MPs should be on the list and took them off - before it was submitted. Or not? It seems no one knows what the fudge is going on and/or is willing to fess up.
Dorries ‘the Lords was my retirement plan’, decided the best approach to getting her answers is to hold her constituents hostage, refusing to actually leave her Parliamentary position until she is graced with an explanation. The former culture secretary has taken this hostage situation to heart, refusing to do any work in the meantime, not that she seems to have done much previously. It seems she hasn’t spoken in the Commons in over a year now, and has only done the bare minimum required, voting six times in 2023.
Apparently she’s taken the movement sweeping the Corporate world - ‘quiet quitting’ to heart, and found that the least a Member of Parliament needs to do is shockingly little. Her own personal website provides constituents with no office to visit her or her Parliamentary staff. On top of this she avoided living in her constituency of Mid Bedfordshire, with her main home in the Cotswolds. Does she teleport? Or maybe she is simply a pioneer of digital nomadic-y in politics. Finger on the pulse, and all.
The question behind all of this is: has this ever happened before? And is there any precedent for Dorries grievance? Is she right in insisting that her refusal of a peerage is “unprecedented”?
To begin, the first question and potentially the least complicated one, there is some very obvious precedent to refuse to carry out Parliamentary duties. Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein were first elected to Parliament in 1917 and refused to take their seats for many years. Mind you, refusing to take them up hasn’t stopped them from winning elections. Their first victory following the Irish War of Independence was in 1955 and their current longest serving MP is Michelle Gildernew, who was first elected in 2001.
Since then she has held the position of MP for 20 years, (having lost a seat briefly between 2015 and 2017), and she has done almost nothing in Parliament. Now, of course, Mrs. Gildernew has a reason for this, as do every Sinn Fein member, none of which have much record of doing anything in Parliament.
Sinn Fein politically decline to take any seats as they do not recognise the sovereignty of the British Parliament in Northern Ireland. Which does slightly make you wonder why they ran in the first place. But, hey ho.
To treat the question even more thoroughly, the answer, as far as we can discover with our trailblazing and profound research methods (aka Google), is no, not within the modern era.
Dorries, having not spoken in Parliament for a year, is quite peculiar, even more than Royston Smith who in 2016 was identified as the least active MP for having only spoken in Parliament 6 times in his first year. Nadine’s hard to get (hold of) approach seems to put Royston to shame - and she doesn’t have the excuse of being a new MP. Silly me thinking newbies were meant to be keener?!
On top of this Nadine’s simultaneous announcement of her resignation and refusal to resign is also unheard of, with the Conservative leadership in particular bewildered by her decision.
Turning though to Sunak’s agreement not to permit a Lady Dorries to enter the House of Lords, it does seem that in this area Nadine is correct, kind of. An honours candidate has almost never been so publicly rejected, and certainly not individually.
Saying that, in 2006 a major scandal broke out around money for honours.
In what most would consider quaint today, the “Cash for Honours” scandal began when 4 wealthy businessmen were rejected for their suggested peerages after they were revealed to have lent the Labour Party £5 million. Eventually criminal proceedings began against 3 “cash for honours” beneficiaries, although in the end no one was charged. (This was long before Johnson gave a peerage to the son of a Russian spymaster, of course.) Nevertheless, Tony Blair would decline to submit resignation honours when he stood down in 2007, usefully freeing up Gordon Brown’s printer so it could get chucked at his ‘useless’ aides.
While Blair’s resignation honourees were all declined, there is even more precedent for Lords nominees getting rejected. Just last year, 4 of Johnson’s general nominees to the Lords were denied, while back in 2015, David Cameron saw 7 of his proposed Lords rejected in his first Prime Ministerial term.
And, on top of this, Dorries was not the only proposed honour to be rejected from Johnson’s list. The Lords Appointment Committee admitted they had actually rejected 8 of Johnson’s peers. Proving at least that Nadine won’t be alone banging on the door to the House of Lords in advance of Keir Starmer ripping it down.
If you're still with us, you might conclude that Nadine has historically been less than an energiser bunny as an MP. And some would argue that the electorate of Mid Bedfordshire could have been better served with an intergalactic space aristocrat with a bucket for a head. At the very least they could be better off with a by-election, although she might be doing them one last favour by refusing to force them to vote out the Tories twice in under a year.
Or maybe Nadine’s just embarrassed that her voters could end up voting more often than she ever did.
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