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Voices: Nadine Dorries is the latest victim of ‘Boris derangement syndrome’

A lengthy confinement to the safety of the fringes of politics for Nadine and her allies looks inevitable (AP)
A lengthy confinement to the safety of the fringes of politics for Nadine and her allies looks inevitable (AP)

As resignation statements go, Nadine Dorries’ is a pretty feeble affair. It’s fair to say it lost any possible element of surprise, because it wasn’t delivered when she actually announced she was quitting as an MP “with immediate effect” back in, erm, June.

We know she hates Rishi Sunak for, as she sees it, betraying Boris Johnson, and even more for his failure to fix her up with a peerage in the summer. The bile is unsurprising. We know that she walked out in a huff, but then, to the embarrassment of all concerned, tiptoed back into the world of active politics. She then pledged to discover the truth about why she, a working-class scouser made good, had been deprived of a permanent perch in the House of Lords – and those investigations appear to warrant not a word in her overlong, rambling, self-congratulatory, preening, embittered and, yes indeed, entitled rant.

She did not, on either occasion, leave the Commons on some great issue of principle or policy, or even because of a clash of personalities. She did it because she was miffed – on behalf of Johnson, who flounced out after being found to have lied to the Commons (and who’s not been very vocal on her behalf); and, rather more of course, on behalf of her proud-yet-insecure self.

Thus, her highly personal and largely baseless attack on Sunak lacks the kind of devastating impact that previous statements have inflicted on beleaguered premiers. Timing, as they say, is everything in politics. It was not Leo Amery quoting Oliver Cromwell at Neville Chamberlain in 1940 – “In the name of God, go!”. She hasn’t wounded Sunak as Norman Lamont did with John Major (“in office, but not in power”) or assassinated him as Geoffrey Howe did Margaret Thatcher – “The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long.”

Some years ago, Dorries attracted the nickname “Mad Nads”, which was said to be how David Cameron, George Osborne, and other members of the now rather forgotten “Notting Hill set” referred to her. It was a bit sexist, maybe snobby even, but her recent behaviour has been, well, irrational.

Indeed, it seems typical of a number of sufferers from the new complaint of “Boris derangement syndrome”, or BDS. Sufferers – who also count among their number Nigel Adams and Zac Goldsmith – commonly forget why Johnson fell from power, blaming shadowy dark forces rather than the more obvious causes (namely Partygate, chaotic habits, lying to parliament, and knowingly appointing a sex pest to the post of government deputy chief whip, apparently for the lols).

Deeper factors would surely include the disappointment of Brexit and the very failures on levelling up and the economy cited by Dorries in her resignation letter. She also seems to be blithely unaware of the effects of Covid and the Ukraine war on Sunak’s administration. The divorce from reality is usually quite striking when someone, as often as not a failed cabinet minister, presents with BDS, or “wheresmygongitis”, as it’s known in the trade.

Symptoms of BDS also include unintentional lapses into bathos. This can be the only explanation for this richly satirical remark in her letter: “I am grateful for your personal phone call on the morning you appointed your cabinet in October, even if I declined to take the call.”

Presumably, space prevented Dorries from acknowledging that Liz Truss, another supposed victim of the so-called “establishment plot”, lasted only 49 days because she blew up the gilts market. This is another trait that is commonly seen in BDS sufferers. They are known to wail, as Dorries does: “Why is it that we have had five Conservative prime ministers since 2010, with not one of the previous four having left office as the result of losing a general election?”

The medically accepted answer is that they were all useless, but that is too traumatic for the patient to accept. Reasoned argument can agitate them more; sedation via GB News and Talk TV (watching and/or appearing on) can help, however.

Dorries is also deluded to say that there’s been no Sunak/Hunt budget or fiscal plan, and seems not to realise that a by-election writ can nowadays be moved during the parliamentary recess – so Mid Bedfordshire need not wait any longer for a full-time MP. Derangement does tend to detract from attention to matters of fact and detail.

There is sadly no treatment for Dorries’ ailment. Palliatives for sufferers of BDS include self-help meetings organised by caring organisations such as the National Conservatives, and therapies dispensed by telly evangelists such as Jacob Rees-Mogg. Dorries is working her own way through the issues of betrayal and despair by writing a book.

It can all help, but when a cult loses its leader, the effects on the devotees can be profound and long-lasting. Indeed, the Tory party took decades to recover from the regicide of Thatcher in 1990. It took decades for Thatcher derangement syndrome – TDS, the precursor of BDS – to burn itself out (even now there are isolated outbreaks of TDS).

A lengthy confinement to the safety of the fringes of politics for Nadine and her allies looks inevitable. Pray for them.