A much more sentimental character that your humble scribe might feel some sympathy for Nadine Dorries. I’m sure she set out on her little crusade to restrict legal access to abortion full of optimism and here we are on the big day of the vote and what has she actually achieved?
A few puff pieces in the Telegraph and the Daily Mail and a complete monstering from the British Blogosphere, which has systematically picked her and her campaign to pieces.
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s vote, Dorries walks away with zero credibility and a reputation as a purveyor of long-debunked hoaxes, crap science and a woman who cannot even muster the most basic integrity necessary to be honesty about her motives.
But let’s not leave it there, shall we, because there’s just one more indignity to be visited on Dorries before tonight’s vote…
Where do we start? Well, we can kick things off with this video footage from last night’s Dispatches documentary, which shows Andrea Williams working with Nadine Dorries on ‘her’ 20 weeks campaign:
The video, of course, confirms that Dorries has been fronting a campaign devised entirely by the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship and pushing their agenda throughout the whole of the campaign. The voice-over even describes Williams as ‘part of the team’ while Dorries, herself states that:
‘what goes on in here would have no structure whatsoever, no sense of achievement, if it wasn’t for people like Andrea on the outside…’
Outside? Williams is shown in the film working with Dorries in what looks to be her parliamentary office, in which case Williams must have a parliamentary pass… but from whom?
Not Dorries, it seems.
Her entry on the register of members’ interests lists only a bit of rental income from a property in Gloucestershire and a holiday home in South Africa, and against her name on the Register Of Interests Of Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants there are only listings for Samuel Coates, Phillipa Collett and Peter Hand. Hand is a member of Bedford Borough Council and Bedfordshire County Council, while Coates is listed as a ‘soldier’ but appears to be the same Sam Coates who works as a deputy editor at Conservative Home.
As for Williams… well she’s nowhere to be found on any of the Commons registers.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a pass. While MPs are required to publish a list of bag carriers and their interests, this innovation hasn’t quite found its way to the House of Lords as yet, although it is on its way after peers found themselves on the wrong end of an unfortunate headline or two last year:
Peers were today warned that the government would stamp out any abuse of the parliamentary pass system following claims that lobbyists and pressure groups had been granted privileged access to the Palace of Westminster.
It was today alleged by the Times that a number of peers were “handing out exclusive access to the Houses of Parliament to lobbyists and pressure groups, who pay them thousands of pounds a year”.
The passes are issued to secretaries and researchers who work in peers’ offices and offer unfettered access to MPs, ministers as well as the parliamentary library and other facilities.
Maybe, Williams is getting to stalk the corridors of Westminster on the back of pass provided by a member of the House of Lords – the Telegraph article that went out on Sunday in relation to last night’s Channel 4 documentary notes that, as part of of her activities, Williams tried to persuade Lord Tebbit to put down an anti-abortion amendment during the House of Lords stage of the bill.
To achieve her ends, Ms Williams doesn’t just organise demonstrations – she has secured access to the heart of Westminster. As the HFE Bill reaches its final reading in the Lords, she calls me to say she has arranged a meeting with Lord Tebbit. Would I like to come?
What I then witness is a piece of raw and normally strictly confidential parliamentary lobbying. Lord Tebbit meets us in Central Lobby and takes us to a meeting room. He and Ms Williams perch across the corner of a huge oak table. Ms Williams is persuading him of the importance of laying an amendment to the Bill. “You can get a slot on the Today programme,” she says. “Because you can say, ‘I’m tabling an amendment to reduce the upper limit on abortion’.”
So William’s certain met with the Chingford Skinhead as was, but the account of the meeting doesn’t suggest that he’s likely to be the peer who’s sponsoring William’s access to parliament.
However, a search of the Lords’ Register of Interests does turn up one intriguing possibility… and its not a Conservative Peer.
There is one member of the House of Lords who lists, amongst their interests, membership of the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship…
Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal PC QC, who is currently holds a ministerial position in government as the serving Attorney General.
Could it really be the case, that Williams’ access to parliament comes by way of a Labour peer, and not just any peer but a serving minister with special provisions to attend meetings of the cabinet as the government’s chief legal advisor?
It’s an odd one for sure. Scotland’s voting record is rock solid loyal including on bills where her recorded vote is clearly at odds with Williams’ brand of Christianity – she voted against an attempt to spike the Civil Partnerships Bill and for the introduction of the Equality Acts Sexual Orientation Regulations, and if she has been conspicuous by her absence in debates/votes on the current HF&E bill then it has to be said that since becoming Attorney General she has confined herself largely to Home Office/Justice related bill plus the occasional big issue bills on climate change targets, where it would have been all hands to the pumps to get the bill through.
It could be Scotland – it wouldn’t be unusual for any MP or peer to sponsor a pass for a employee of an organisation of which they are a member – but it might just as easily be the case that Williams is getting access via another peer.
One way or another, the C4 film does suggest that she has quite wide-ranging access to parliament and the is nothing on public record to show exactly how she has that access and who has sponsored her for a pass, and that’s something that needs to be corrected, particularly as it seems that she has been the covert architect of campaign, fronted by Dorries, from start to finish.
Seemingly, last night’s documentary has got to Dorries who, today, posted this in an effort to set the record ‘straight’…
Apparently now I’m a religious fundamentalist! Of all the arrows I’ve had slung at me since I picked up abortion, that has to be the most ridiculous.
Am I a Christian? Yes I am. Do I go to Church? Occasionally. Do I pray? Sometimes. Do I believe in God? Yes. Does this make me a freak? Well, if it does, we’re a nation of freaks, that’s all I can say.
Almost everyone I know believes in a God. It may not be the same God as mine, they may not go to the same Church as me, but they do believe in something.
My position on abortion is motivated by my experience as a nurse, witnessing late botched abortions .
I will say this once again – I am not a religious fundamentalist !!!!
Of course, no has been suggesting that Nad is a fundie, only that she and her campaign has links with, and has been supported throughout by fundies – which is precisely what last night’s documentary unequivocally demonstrates.
So even if she isn’t personally a fundie, she’s at best a stooge and not a particularly bright one at that – not much a revelation, I know, but a point worth reiterating none the less.
She also levels what is by far the most idiotic piece of political doublethink I’ve seen is ages…
Gordon Brown stuck his neck out on 24 weeks, why? A ridiculous thing for a Prime Minister to do if he were entering into the spirit of his MPs having a free vote.
Said the woman shown on camera, last night, putting over the idea that if she could only persuade David Cameron to back her 20 weeks campaign then most of the Tory Party would vote for her amendment.
Would Nadine like to explain why its against the spirit of a free vote for Brown to express his personal support for a particular position, but not for Cameron to do the same?
Of course not – after all she appears to think she’s the MP for Mid-Narnia.