Nadine Dorries Is The New 'Steward And Bailiff Of The Three Hundreds Of Chiltern'. What The Hell is That?

The former cabinet minister has replaced Boris Johnson as part of an archaic process that means she has finally resigned as an MP.
Boris Johnson has been replaced as "Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern" by Nadine Dorries.
Boris Johnson has been replaced as "Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern" by Nadine Dorries.
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Nadine Dorries has finally resigned as an MP - nearly three months after she said she was standing down “with immediate effect”.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt this morning appointed her to be Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern, a title previously held by Dorries’s close friend, Boris Johnson.

It prompts the obvious question: what the hell are they going on about?

Parliament likes nothing more than an archaic process that leaves the British public baffled – and they don’t come much more archaic and baffling than handing a departing MP a momentary office so that they can give up their Commons seat.

How have we got here?

Way back on June 9, Dorries announced to her Twitter followers that she had told the Tory chief whip that she was “standing down as the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, with immediate effect”.

It came after confirmation that she had been blocked from becoming a peer, a role promised to her by Johnson before he quit as prime minister.

However, the former culture secretary did not go through with the necessary formalities, meaning she continued to cling on as a Tory MP despite mounting criticism of her behaviour.

Dorries finally resigned on Saturday night with a stinging letter to Rishi Sunak, published in the Mail on Sunday.

She then followed that up by saying the PM will lead the Tories to defeat in the next election and refusing to say whether she would even vote for the party herself.

So what is the Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern?

The Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern in Buckinghamshire is a historical position – established in the 17th century – which in modern times has been used to facilitate the resignations of MPs.

Elected MPs are unable to resign and must become disqualified if they wish to leave the Commons before the end of the parliament.

One way to do it is to be appointed to a paid office of the Crown – which does the work of automatically disqualifying them from holding a seat in the Commons.

Another post – in Yorkshire’s Manor of Northstead – performs the same role.

To be clear, neither post comes with any payment or responsibilities.

As Erskine May, the authoritative guide to parliamentary procedure, puts it: “These offices are today purely nominal and are ordinarily given by the chancellor of the exchequer to any member who applies for them or who otherwise indicates to the chancellor an intention to retire.

“Each office is retained only until the chancellor appoints another member who wishes to retire, or until the holder applies for release from it.”

So when is her by-election?

The government chief whip cannot formally trigger the by-election process - known as “moving the writ” - until parliament returns from summer recess next week.

The vote has to take place between 21 and 27 working days from this point, meaning it will happen on a Thursday in October.

Complicating the picture is the fact that both the Tories and Labour have their annual conferences the same month, while the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election is also expected to take place in October.

Dorries retained the seat with a majority of 24,664 at the 2019 general election, but the bookies have installed the Lib Dems as favourites to win the by-election. However, Labour insist they are best placed to pull off a historic victory and defeat the Tories.

What do people think?

Dorries herself seemed to be quite proud of her “new job” as she publicised it on X, formerly known as Twitter.

But despite the fact that she turned off replies to her post, users of the social media platform still managed to express their views, with many pointing out her less-than-impressive parliamentary attendance record.


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