Rumbles in the jungle

First, a confession. I am no fan of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a complete episode.

But I'm fairly certain that, between swimming through sewage and chewing on kangaroo testicles, there's little opportunity for intense political debate.

Which would suggest my understanding of the programme is a little better than Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, and one of this year's jungle intake.

She apparently plans to use this exposure to promote the issues such as changing the laws on abortion, the kind of thing that occupies her mind when she's not drinking liquidised crocodile penis on TV.

Now, as I've already said, I'm no expert on celebrity gameshows. But I'm fairly certain they're pretty light on matters of public policy.

But I'm sure Ms Dorries' appearance on the show is motivated by the desire to lobby the British public on key political issues, rather than the £40,000 she's apparently being paid by the producers.

Of course, there is the question of her day job. You know, being an MP. Who's representing the constituents of Mid Bedfordshire during her absence? Will she break off from being coated in exotic insects to hold an impromptu surgery via Skype?

She's already said she'll claim her MPs salary, £5,478 for the month. During that time, she'll also be entitled to more than £3,000 in expenses, plus almost £700 for a committee role. 

She points out that parliament will be in recess for a week from November 17th. She is, however, already in Australia, and the programme starts this weekend.

Theoretically, she could spend a month out of the UK (though that would depend on her surviving a series of public votes, and it's not clear whether the ITV1 audience will respond warmly to being lectured about abortion law).

Last week, Labour MP Dennis MacShane was effectively sacked by a parliamentary committee.

He'd submitted nineteen fake invoices, claiming almost £13,000 in expenses.

The Labour Party suspended him, a report recommended he be barred from the Commons for a year. 

Mr MacShane resigned before the day was out, complaining the judgement left his political career "effectively over".

In their 2010 manifesto, the Liberal Democrats promised to give constituents the right to sack their MP. But by the time a Coalition policy emerged, late last year, the plans had changed.

The public could trigger a by-election, but only if 10% of an MPs constituents signed a petition. And even then, it would only apply if an MP was sent to prison.

Without a jail sentence, the power to force out an MP still rests with the Commons disciplinary committee - voters have no direct power.

Facing a year out of the Commons, Mr MacShane had no alternative. It would be inconceivable to leave his constituents without representation for a year.

So, what about leaving thousands of people without representation for a month? 

The voters of Mid-Bedfordshire will be able to have their say at the General Election. But that's two-and-a-half years away.

Until then, the only power of censure rests with Nadine Dorries' peers. A few hours after the story first broke, she was suspended by the Conservative Party. Disgruntled constituents could write to her, but that's about it.

We would frown on the idea of letting bankers sit in judgement on other bankers. Self-regulation of the press has hardly been a success.

Yet the only way Ms Dorries' constituents can get her back to her day job is by voting her off a TV gameshow. 

Which seems almost as odd as wanting to go on the show in the first place.