Ten Years?

It’s been some considerable time since I wrote anything about Nadine Dorries. I still keep an eye on what she’s up to, but most of the time it’s just the same old nonsense and it’s not worth writing about.

But I was interested to read her recent blog post explaining why she had given up Twitter (again). Of course, she uses it to rehash many of her old claims of stalking and the like, but what I found really interesting was when she said:

After almost ten years on Twitter (so long I can’t remember) and with 28,000 followers, I have made my own modest exit.

Because that “almost ten years” didn’t fit my recollections. Twitter has just had its tenth anniversary. As I wrote recently, almost no-one has been on Twitter for ten years – certainly not any British MPs.

It’s simple enough to use one of the many “how long have I been on Twitter?” sites to work out when her current @NadineDorriesMP account joined Twitter. It seems to be January 2012.

But that’s not the full story. She has joined and left Twitter a few times. Let’s see what we can find out.

Firstly, here’s a blog post from May 2009 where she doesn’t seem to be planning to join Twitter any time soon.

Anyway, safe to say, I shan’t be joining the legions of twitters any day soon.

It’s several months later, in September 2009, when she announces that she has joined Twitter. So that “ten years” is more like six and a half.

I’m pretty sure that first account was also called @NadineDorriesMP. At some point over the next couple of years, she closed that account (I’ll dig through her blog later to see if I can find any evidence to date that) and some time later she returned with a new account called @Nadine_MP. I know that because in May 2011 she gave up that second account and forgot to remove the Twitter widget from her web site. Then someone else took over the now-abandoned username and used it to deface her site. And then, as we saw above, she rejoined in January 2012.

So I think the list of Nadine’s Twitter accounts goes like this:

  • NadineDorriesMP (Sept 2009 – Unknown)
  • Nadine_MP (Unknown – May 2011)
  • NadineDorriesMP (Jan 2012 – Mar 2016)

That last account is still registered. She just chooses not to use it any more. If past behaviour is anything to go by, she’ll be back at some point.

Anyway, here’s another good example of why you can’t trust anything that Dorries says. Even on a simple fact like how long she has been using Twitter, she just pulls numbers out of the air. She makes stuff up to suit her and she’s been doing it for years.

Jungle Money

There’s been a lot of talk recently about what Nadine Dorries was paid for her appearances on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and why she hasn’t declared that fee yet.

By following the trail laid down by Unity in this excellent blog post and listening carefully to what Dorries says in this interview with Andrew Neil (I expect that’ll be there for another week or so) it becomes pretty obvious what has happened.

She hasn’t received the money yet.

Of course, you wouldn’t usually expect to wait six months for payment for a media appearance, so what has happened?

Dorries has a service company called Averbrook and all of her media work is now undertaken by this company. Then Averbrook invoices media organisations for the work that Dorries does and the media companies pay the fees to Averbrook. The fees then sit in Averbrook’s bank account until needed.

At this point Dorries has received no money and therefore has no requirement to declare any income. In the Andrew Neil interview, she says “I have not personally benefited from going into the jungle”. She then explains that she has a company for her media work and although it isn’t made clear, it’s obvious that this company receives the money from this work.

Dorries goes on to say that when she benefits from that work, she will have to register the income. At some point in the future she will need to use this money and Averbrook will pay it to her. There are various ways for a director to take money out of a company. You might pay it as salary, you might pay it as dividends (if the director owns shares in the company) or, in extreme circumstances, you can close the company down and redistribute its assets. All of these will have varying tax implications and all of them will require Dorries to declare the income to parliament.

But here’s the interesting thing. The income that Dorries will receive from Averbrook will have no link back to its original source. The declaration will simply need to say “£X,000 dividend from Averbrook” or whatever is appropriate. There will be no way to say how much of the money comes from each individual source.

It’s a bit like money laundering. But, of course, this is all completely legal. Working through a service company is a really common way to manage tax affairs. It has tax benefits and (as we can see here) it has privacy benefits.

Of course, there’s a good argument that using a company like this goes against the spirit of the requirement for MPs to declare income. It would be hard to argue against that. But until the law is changed, you are very unlikely to see any MP stop using the system.

So what are the chances of the system changing? Rather slim I’d say. Why? Well because the people who would need to make the change are many of the people who are benefiting from this system.

But on this occasion, I’d have to say that Dorries isn’t the problem. She’s just taking advantage of a well-known system. And people aren’t asking her the right questions about it.

Liverpudlian MPs

Back in the day, when I grew up on my Liverpool council estate every member of Liverpool City council was Conservative. The city had eight Conservative MPs.

This is Nadine Dorries writing on Conservative Home a couple of days ago. She should really learn that if she doesn’t check her facts, then someone else will. You’ll be shocked, I suspect, to hear that this information is less than completely true. To me, it looks like Liverpool never had more than six Tory MPs while Dorries was growing up there.

Dorries was born in 1957. So let’s look at the 1955 general election and see which MPs were elected in Liverpool then. Liverpool has nine MPs, six of which are Tory. None of the seats changed hands in 1959. In 1964, however, the Tories lost four seats, taking their total down to two. This number remained constant in 1966 and 1970. The Tories lost another seat in February 1974 and remained steady on only one seat in October. Finally, in 1979 (when Dorries is 22 – so I’m not sure it still counts as while she was growing up) the Tories doubled their number of seats to a rather unimpressive two.

So Liverpool never had more than six Tory MPs – al least not while Dorries was growing up there. But she thinks that she can just throw a fact into an article like that and people will just accept it’s true.

You should never trust a word that Dorries writes. She has frequently been proven wrong on details like this.

p.s. Tim Fenton has run this analysis too and has reached similar conclusions. And, surprise surprise, he finds that her claims about the council are nonsense too.

The Inescapable Rise of Secularism

I’ve got rather sucked into the comments on Nadine Dorries’ nonsense about the “attacks” on Christianity. Here’s the first comment that I left, which pretty much sums up my feelings.

The Christian church’s outcry against Mr Justice Ouseley’s eminently sensible ruling can only be seen as the death cries of increasingly irrelevant group.

Spout whatever statistics you like about the percentages of people who call themselves Christian, but the inescapable fact is that the UK ceased to be a Christian nation by any meaningful measure about thirty years ago. The fact that we still have an established church is nothing but a historical accident. It’s inconceivable that this relationship between church and state will still be in place in twenty years time.

So, yes, maybe parliament will waste some time overturning this ruling. But it will only be a temporary setback. Secularism is on the rise. Religion has no place in the public square.

Nadine Dorries: Just Say No

Today was the day that parliament had a rather long list of private members bills to debate. Originally there were sixty-four on the list. As this informative post from Kerry McCarthy tells us, they’d normally expect to get through about three of them. The MPs sponsoring the rest of the bills were pretty much wasting their time.

Number eight on the original list was Nadine Dorries bill to teach girls between 13 and 16 how to say no to sex. The Guardian’s headline was MPs to debate sexual abstinence lessons bill, which was slightly disingenuous as the chance of the debate reaching that far down the list was tiny.

But this morning, when the order of business for today in parliament was published Dorries bill was missing from the list. Everyone assumed that Dorries was responsible for this removal. As a spokeswoman for the Commons information office told the Guardian “No one would be able to remove a private members’ bill without the permission of a member”. The assumption seemed to be that Dorries had realised the futility of being so far down the list and had removed the bill. She wouldn’t have been the only one – the published list only contains forty-nine of the expected sixty-four bills.

At lunchtime, things got even more interesting. A new Twitter account called @NadineDorriesMP appeared with this tweet (in reply to a joke by John Prescott):

@johnprescott My bill has not ‘jumped off at Edge Hill’ if you care to read the order paper, it’s number eight on the list!!

Something about this timeline didn’t seem right to me. That tweet was posted at 12:47, which is almost two hours since I first saw the order of business without her bill. I assume the order of business was published some time earlier. The first hint I had that the bill had been withdrawn was this blog post by Kerry McCarthy which was published just after 10am.

On the basis that the real Nadine Dorries would have known by 12:47 that her bill was not on the order paper, I called the new Twitter account as a fake. But it seems I was wrong. People like Iain Dale confirmed that it really was her (and, yes, this is one of the few things I’d trust Iain Dale on).

All of which leaves us with a bit of a mystery. Either Dorries withdrew her bill or she didn’t. If she did then the first tweet on her new Twitter account is a complete lie. If she didn’t then we need to ask who did withdraw her bill – given that it’s only her who is supposed to be able to do that.

And even if someone else managed to withdraw her bill without her knowledge, something still doesn’t ring true. If she was expecting to debate her bill (no matter how tiny the chance) then surely she would have been hanging around in parliament all morning and I can’t believe that she didn’t see the order paper and notice her bill was missing. Or that one of her friends saw that it was missing and asked her what happened.

All in all I find it incredible that she could have got to 12:47 without knowing that her bill was not on the list. So how do you explain that tweet?

This is, I think, the third time that Dorries has joined Twitter. And with her first tweet she has already started people thinking that this time is going to be no different to the previous occasions. She will be ineptly trying to use it to promote her strange view of the world. And she will quickly make herself a laughing stock once more.

Update: At 16:37 this afternoon, @NadineDorriesMP tweeted the following:

Just to make it absolutely clear and leave no doubt whatsoever, my Bill was NOT withdrawn

Curiouser and curiouser. So, now we are left with two questions. 1/ Why wasn’t Dorries’ bill on the order paper? And 2/ At what point did she realise it wasn’t on the order paper?

Update 2: Welshracer may have got to the heart of the matter here. He points out what it says on the official parliamentary web page for Dorries’ bill.

The Bill was not printed and so was not moved for debate on 20 January 2012.

What do we make of this? One interpretation would be that Dorries didn’t withdraw the bill for debate, but that someone in her office forgot to get the bill printed so that it could be included in the debate.

But even in those circumstances you’d think that she’d get a phone call from the people who were planning the day’s business telling her what had (or hadn’t) happened. I still can’t believe that she didn’t know the bill wasn’t on the order paper when she sent her first tweet at quarter to one.

Update 3: Couple more pieces of information came in overnight.

Firstly, it seems that the new @NadineDorriesMP Twitter account was set up two weeks ago. It seems she resisted using it until goaded into it by John Prescott yesterday.

Secondly, the Independent managed to speak to Dorries about this confusion. She says:

The Bill is still live, but there was more chance of being struck by a meteor than getting it debated, so we told the Commons office not to bother printing a hard copy. What I didn’t realise was that if you don’t order it to be printed, it automatically comes off the agenda.

Of course I wouldn’t withdraw it … a lot of people had paid train fares to come and protest. It would have been churlish.

So we finally have the truth (or, at least, Dorries’ version of it). She knew it wouldn’t be debated so she decided not to have the bill printed. She didn’t know that would automatically remove it from the order paper. She didn’t withdraw the bill out of respect for the people who were coming to protest against it.

It’s also not clear to me in what sense the bill is still live. This was the final opportunity to debate private members bills before the end of this parliamentary session. Any unfinished business from this parliamentary session doesn’t get passed on to the next one, so anything that wasn’t approved is, as far as I can see, effectively dead.

You couldn’t make this up!

MPs and Facts

When an MP is in a discussion and mentions a fact to back up their argument, it would be nice if you knew that you could trust that fact. Unfortunately that’s often not the case. To pick an example at random, here’s Nadine Dorries from last week’s Any Questions (the link will work for a few more days and Dorries starts this speech at about 41 mins):

The National Drugs Prevention Alliance once startled me when they told me that the cut of cannabis which teenagers are smoking now and using across the UK is actually fifty times more potent than it was even a year ago.

That sounded astonishing to me. In fact, it sounded extremely unlikely. So I decided to investigate a little further.

I found the NDPA’s web site and emailed them to ask for references to back up this claim. Very quickly, I got a reply from their Political Affairs Director, David Raynes. He advised me to listen to the edition of Any Answers which discussed the issues from that edition of Any Questions (again the link will only work for a few more days). At about 27 minutes in, David Raynes phones in to say this:

I asked to come on the programme, basically, to correct the figures that came from Nadine Dorries about cannabis. She was absolutely correct that it’s stronger than years ago, but we don’t agree exactly with her figures and it’s a long time since we gave her a briefing. Typically, modern cannabis is about three to four times stronger than the strongest cannabis of the sixties.

The NDPA is an organisation who campaign strongly for the continued criminalisation of drugs. They are a group who totally support Dorries’ stance on drugs. But even they couldn’t stomach the distortion of their message which she put forward and felt they had to speak up and distance themselves from her.

Of course people make mistakes in the heat of a discussion – and that becomes more likely if the discussion is live in a radio studio. But any reasonable person who realises that they have made a mistake like that would surely post a clarification and an apology on their blog. In Dorries’ case, I very much doubt that will happen.

Don’t you wish you could trust MPs?

Social Networking 101

If you have a blog and a Twitter account then it’s nice to feed your tweets onto the front page of your blog. It can be an effective way to let your friends see what you’re saying in both places.

If, however, you later delete your Twitter account then it’s probably a good idea to remove the widget from your blog.

There’s one very important reason for doing this. Eventually Twitter will allow your deleted account name to be recycled. And then someone else will be able to post tweets which automatically appear on your blog.

Say, for example, you’re an MP who has made a few enemies in her time. And say that you’ve flounced away from Twitter claiming that it is a “sewer”. In that situation you probably don’t want to leave a way open for people who don’t like you to post whatever they want on your web site.

I mean, if you’re currently campaigning about abstinence and sex education, you probably don’t want your web site to say:

I think sex before marriage should be discouraged. It’s better if at least one of you is married, doesn’t matter who to particularly.

Or:

I suppose with fisting there’s no risk of pregnancy.. ..maybe kids should be taught about that?

Sometimes I wonder if the money that Nadine Dorries spent on “PR” wouldn’t have been better spent on IT consultancy.

They’ll fix it eventually, so Tim has captured it for us.

Update: And it’s gone. That was slightly quicker than I expected. I’m now expecting a blog post from her accusing someone (probably Tim) of hacking her computer.

Obsession

Last night over on the bizarrely named “Tory Totty Online” blog I was almost accused of suffering from OCD. I say “almost accused” as the author played that silly game of not quite joining the dots. She defined OCD, she said “certain bloggers seem to be having recurring obsessive thoughts about other certain bloggers” and then she drew on some examples from my web presence before ending with:

Now, I’m no shrink, and far be it from me to suggest that there’s any sort of ‘obsessive behaviour’ going on here.

But it was just a thought.

And that’s a classic get-out clause. If I say that she said I have OCD then she can say “no I didn’t but, hey, if the cap fits…”. But it’s pretty obvious what conclusions she expects her readers to reach.

It’s a serious accusation to make, so it’s worth examining the evidence. In my day job I’m a programmer and attention to detail is an important part of what I do every day. Many great programmers are good at their job because they are mildly OCD or autistic. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if I exhibited some of the symptoms.

The blog post implies that I’m obsessing over Nadine Dorries. The proof is apparently that the first two blog posts on my web site yesterday were about Dorries and that I tweeted about her “informed consent” plans yesterday evening. It’s a shame that CateyMaxx didn’t look a little further down the front page of my site as there were three other blog entries listed, none of which had anything to do with Dorries. One was about programming, one was about the campaign to get people to answer the religion question accurately at next year’s census and the other was about choice of blogging platform. Had she bothered to look at my main blog’s front page she would have found posts about political campaigning, data backups and three consecutive posts about the pope’s recent visit.

This blog has been running for over eight years. I have written over 1,600 posts here and it looks to me as though 19 of them mention Nadine Dorries (this will be the twentieth). The earliest of them was almost exactly three years ago. Before the two posts that are currently on the front page, the previous time I mentioned her was in April. I’ve written about her four times this year.

The two posts that seemed to annoy Tory Totty so much are two weeks old. Yes, they’re my most recent blog posts (well, until today) but does that sound like an obsession to you? Nadine Dorries has been on cracking form over the last two weeks. There have been plenty of reasons to write blog posts about her. But I really could be bothered. Doesn’t sound much like an obsession to me. In comparison, the front page of the Tory Totty blog (which currently has posts from 25th October to this morning) has four stories that mention Nadine Dorries.

On the basis of this flimsy evidence, I’m going to have to plead “not guilty”. Obsessed with Doctor Who, maybe. Obsessed with getting these bloody builders to finish the work on my house, probably. But obsessed with Nadine Dorries, I really don’t think so.

There’s a serious side to all of this though, of course. Firstly, there’s the idea that Tory Totty would use something like OCD as an insult. It shows rather an unpleasant attitude to people with disabilities. And then there’s the idea that by labelling an opponent as mentally ill, you don’t need to address their points. I had hoped that Tory Totty (@CateyMaxx on Twitter) was going to be interested in an intellectual debate (I know that her choice of pseudonym made that sound unlikely, but I’m a glass-half-full kind of person) it’s a shame that she has lowered herself to this level.

Wow. That went on longer than I thought it would. I’m starting to realise why Tim Ireland’s blog posts are always so long. Anyway, to cheer everybody up, here’s one of my favourite songs from my long distant youth. It seems somewhat appropriate.

Conversations with CateyMaxx

Summarising @Nadine_MP‘s “informed consent” ideas: A woman can’t have an abortion until a christian nutter has tried to scare her out of it?

That’s the content of a tweet that I sent just before 6pm last night. I thought it nicely summed up the reasons behind Nadine Dorries’ recent speech in Parliament. I didn’t, of course, expect everyone to agree. I wasn’t prepared for the response I got from one corner of the internet.

Having sent the tweet, I went out for the night. Had it not been the era of the smartphone, I would have been completely cut off from the internet for the next few hours. But as I arrived at the venue I checked Twitter to find three tweets from CateyMaxx. For those of you who don’t know, CateyMaxx has been one of a small number of people who have been supporting Nadine Dorries over recent weeks. She said:

CateyMaxx: @davorg lol evening Dave – your usual Stirring self I see! You don’t believe that crap so why on EARTH do you say it? [6:28]

CateyMaxx: @davorg & also – what’s with the ‘Christian nutter’ jibe? @Nadine_MP is advocating informed choice – where do her religious beliefs come in? [6:30]

CateyMaxx: @davorg always presuming, of course, u know & understand her religious beliefs b’cos I certainly don’t! Maybe u’ve had a convo with her? [6:31]

Over the next ten minutes I sent her some replies – which she, in turn, replied to. I think I’ve reconstructed the order correctly here, but we’re often typing across each other.

davorg: @CateyMaxx We already have informed choice [Yes – I meant “consent”, not “choice”] – just not of the kind Nadine wants to see. [7:20]

CateyMaxx: @davorg I’m sure you know all about the choice that’s available to pregnant women? You’re so unnecessarily pedantic. [7:21]

davorg: @CateyMaxx She’s definitely a christian – she has said as much. And she hangs around with mutters [Typo: that should be “nutters” – I hope that’s obvious] like Christian Concern For Our Nation. [7:23]

davorg: @CateyMaxx Informed concent is already a legal requirement before any major medical procedure. [7:27]

CateyMaxx: @davorg ok, so let’s be clear – you say ‘Christian Concern’ (who @Nadine_MP as u put it ‘hangs around with’ are nutters? Can you elucidate? [7:27]

CateyMaxx: @davorg but it’s the TYPE of information which is accessible to ppl that matters . .surely. All @Nadine_MP is trying to do is make more [7:28]

davorg: @CateyMaxx Anyway, I’d love to chat more but I’m at a gig and the first band is about to come on. Have a nice evening. [7:28]

CateyMaxx: @davorg info to a wider no. of ppl – so they no the mental, emotional aswell as physical implications of abortion. What is wrong with that? [7:29]

CateyMaxx: @davorg lol . .you too! [7:29]

And that’s where we left it. Or, at least, that’s what I though. I dipped back into Twitter a couple of hours later whilst waiting for the headliners to come on, only to see this:

CayeyMaxx: New Blog Post: Tory Totty Online: Is OCD Sweeping the Blogosphere? http://bit.ly/91JJsf [9:17]

I replied as soon as I saw it and we got into another conversation.

davorg: @CateyMaxx Nicely done. Writing an attack on me like that when you know I’m busy and won’t be able to respond for 12 hours. [9:39]

CateyMaxx: @davorg Havent written an ‘attack’ on you – merely reported what’ on your blog. Why? What’s up? [9:40]

davorg: @CateyMaxx And missing out my side of tonight’s conversation was a nice touch. You’ve been learning from the masters :-) [9:42]

CateyMaxx: @davorg thats because you LEFT the conversation and didn’t answer me lol Its all there in b&w. No-ones attacking u – dont be so sensitive [9:43]

davorg: @CateyMaxx I wrote 4 or 5 replies to you which are missing from your blog post. That’s hardly balanced reporting. [9:47]

davorg: @CateyMaxx Hope your blog comments are working early tomorrow morning :-) [9:48]

CateyMaxx: @davorg in that case . . .I will go back and have a look and then put them in the post . . . . the comments are working fine. Feel free. [9:53]

CateyMaxx: @davorg Oh yes – I’ve found them. Will add them to the post now ok? :-) [9:54]

davorg: @CateyMaxx Thank you. I’ll a comment tomorrow. Must go again. Tunng are about to come on. [9:57]

And at that point, I settled in to enjoy Tunng and CateyMaxx wandered off to do whatever she does at that time on a Saturday night (I think it might involve watching the X Factor results programme).

Obviously I’ll come back to this later today and respond to the points that she made, but I just wanted to start by setting the scene and getting the full conversation written out in the order that it happened.

She Writes Fiction

Given what we now know about the content of Nadine Dorries’ blog, the title of this post (which I’ve reused here) seems somewhat appropriate. Dorries must have known that John Lyon’s report on her was about to be published so it might be seen as slightly disingenuous to write about other people publishing fiction as fact given the revelations that were just around the corner.

It’s also interesting to revisit some of her old blog posts and play “spot the 30% that is true”. We could start with the “She Writes Fiction” post, but it’s hard to get anywhere near a 30% figure for facts in that piece.

Or there’s the “Hand of Hope” post (and its sequel, “Hand of Truth“) where Dorries delights in overturning pretty much all scientific evidence on pre-natal surgery. Far less than 30% facts there too.

Perhaps we should look at her posts about the expenses investigations last year. Here’s the post that contains her response to the Telegraph and the one where she expands on the previous one. But no, those are both clearly complete nonsense as the Lyon report demonstrates. Or maybe the one where she claims that everyone in Westminster “fears a suicide“. Is that only 70% true? Perhaps everyone in Westminster really feared a paper cut.

Or how about the one where she fearlessly refused to kowtow to the speaker. Is only 30% of that true? Perhaps she just thought about doing it.

Last night, in an interview, Dorries claimed that she may have got the 70/30 figures the wrong way round. But does that really make a difference? Is a MP who tells lies on her blog 30% of the time rally much better than one who does it 70% of the time? Is that what the voters of Mid Beds really want from their MP?

She’s clearly gone too far this time. A lot of this morning’s press is covering this story. It’s even in the Daily Mail. Her constituents will know about this. What will their reaction be? I know that Mid Beds is one of those constituencies where the Tories can never lose. But surely the constituents deserve a better quality of MP than this? Surely the local Conservative Association can’t ignore this. Someone must be having a quiet word with Dorries about now. And if the local party won’t ask her to stand down immediately or deselect her before the next election, then there’s clearly only one option open to us.

Where’s Martin Bell? It’s time for another Tatton moment.