Tories face ‘tough battle’ after Nadine Dorries quits with No10 blast

Tories face ‘tough battle’ after Nadine Dorries quits with No10 blast

Ministers conceded on Tuesday that they face a “tough” by-election battle in Mid Bedfordshire as Nadine Dorries finally quit her Commons seat, posing yet another headache for Rishi Sunak.

Weeks after declaring her intention to quit, the former culture secretary handed in her resignation over the weekend and was this morning appointed to an archaic Crown position — the only formal means for an MP to resign.

The Government can then move a writ when the Commons returns from its summer recess next Monday, giving between 21 and 27 working days for the by-election to be held.

That will pose a distraction for ministers after Ms Dorries laid bare Conservative tensions with an extraordinary attack on the Prime Minister as he tries to get to grips with the cost-of-living and small boats crises in the run up to the party’s Manchester conference in early October.

In her resignation letter, the Boris Johnson ally said Mr Sunak had abandoned “the fundamental principles of Conservatism” and that “history will not judge you kindly”, as she also accused 10 Downing Street of whipping up public anger against her.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper today said: “I looked at her letter. I don’t agree with any of it. But look, you are right, the by-election is going to be tough. All mid-term by-elections are tough. We’ve got a fantastic candidate in Festus [Akinbusoye], who’s the police and crime commissioner there.

“He is well known, well respected and well liked,” Mr Harper told TalkTV. “We will be fighting hard for every vote… it won’t be an easy fight. But we’re going to go out there and give it everything we’ve got.”

After upsetting the odds with victories in other safe Tory seats recently, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are bidding to overturn the 24,000 majority left by Ms Dorries.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey was today paying his fourth campaign visit to Mid Bedfordshire, declaring “enough is enough” for Conservative control.

“From not being able to see a GP to having an absent MP, it’s clear this part of the world has been completely ignored by the Conservatives,” he said.