Senior Tories have expressed frustration at the continued withdrawal of the Tory whip from MP Nadine Dorries, amidst rumours that the former ‘I'm A Celebrity‘ contestant could be considering a defection to Ukip.
The Times reported that Dorries would meet Sir George Young, the Tory Chief Whip, this week to see if she would be welcome back in the Conservative fold after her suspension for participating in the bug-eating reality TV show in November.
There is already a clamour of support for her to have the whip returned, but the word in Westminster is that Cameron and George Osborne, who Dorries called "arrogant posh boys", are personally fearful of a return of the firebrand MP, and are blocking her return.
Former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe told HuffPost UK that Dorries should have the whip restored.
"I don't think Nadine should ever have had the whip withdrawn in the first place. It's an exercise which has gone on far too long, if you ask me," she said.
"The talk about defection to Ukip has not been at all helpful, but ultimately, it's now entirely in the hands of Cameron."
And former Tory chairman Lord Ashcroft and MP Sarah Wollaston also stressed how uncomfortable the situation was making those in the party.
Tory MP David Davis, who challenged David Cameron for the leadership of the party, said it "would be wise, generous and gentlemanly to give [the whip] back,” according to the Express.
Budge Wells, her local party chairman, told The Times that the Tories were “destroying themselves” by not making a decision.
“What we want is our MP restored as a Conservative MP without any restrictions or rules, just restored.
“MPs should have the privilege of being a Conservative but with the ability to speak out against Conservative policy from time to time when they feel that’s the right thing to do.”
Dorries may well be able to resurrect her political career without agreeing to a vow of uncritical silence or by joining Nigel Farage's Eurosceptic party.
The Tory backbench body, the 1922 Committee, has a rule which allows an MP who has had the whip withdrawn to have an appeal hearing - if it happens within six months of a general election.
The rule came into force seven years ago after Tory MP and Treasury spokesman Howard Flight was sacked by Michael Howard from the front bench, a perceived injustice by backbenchers as it meant his local Conservative Association was unable to select him to stand as an MP in the imminent 2005 general election.
Dorries herself has let her frustration out on Twitter, regularly retweeting those who call for her whip to be restored, but also hinting some approval at gains by Ukip in the recent local elections.
The British public hate seeing the underdog kicked or suppressed.for those who want UKIP to do well, just carry on.— Nadine Dorries MP (@NadineDorriesMP) April 28, 2013
Journalists appear to be struggling harder than MPs to take on board UKIP phenomena! #establishment— Nadine Dorries MP (@NadineDorriesMP) May 3, 2013
Dorries told ITV News after the election results came in last week that it was "the day the political landscape significantly shifted.
"The rise of UKIP will hopefully force David Cameron and George Osborne to reconnect with true Conservative values and work hard over the next two years to win back the core Tory vote they appeared to be determined to jettison as part of their personal quest to modernise the Conservative Party."
Farage has repeatedly said he would welcome a meeting with Dorries, and said class discrimination was behind the continued withdrawal of the whip.
He told the Express: "The fact is that she represents a strain of working class Tory that seem to be coming across to Ukip in large numbers.
“Nadine is one of a handful of Conservatives in the Commons from a Northern working class background. Of course we would talk to her. Why wouldn’t we? If she decided she wanted to come to us it would be their loss and our gain.”
Were Dorries to defect, she would not be Ukip's first MP. Bob Spink, defected from the Conservatives in 2008 and joined Ukip for a matter of months before becoming an independent, but lost his seat to the Tories in the 2010 election.