Nadine Dorries and four of the other weirdest Westminster exits

A look at some of the stranger happenings that have led to the end of political careers

Nadine Dorries
Dorries is yet to leave her seat despite resigning in June
(Image credit: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Labour leader Keir Starmer has said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must “get a grip” and force Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries to step down.

Dorries resigned from her post in June indicating that she would leave with “immediate effect”, but has not yet officially left parliament. Starmer said she has been “absolutely absent” from her constituency, where she has been MP since 2005, and urged Sunak to “force the issue and get on with it”. Her formal resignation would trigger a by-election, something that has already happened in Nigel Adams’s former constituency of Selby and Ainsty after he quit around the same time as Dorries.

Dorries, however, has said she is “delaying leaving the Commons” as she waits for answers “over the peerage she never received”, said The Telegraph, having said she would quit when the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson stepped down.

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She “accused Rishi Sunak’s team of removing her name” from Johnson’s outgoing honours list, and said it was “necessary” to remain in her post until the situation was resolved, the BBC said.

Though Dorries’s resignation without actually resigning is one of the more recent examples of strange exits from Westminster, there are plenty of equally, and some much more, bizarre examples of MPs quitting or being forced out of Parliament.

John Stonehouse

John Stonehouse

(Image credit: Roger Jackson/Getty Images)

In November 1974, when the Labour MP John Stonehouse’s clothes were found on a beach in Miami, he was “widely assumed to have died from suicide”, said the i news site.

Before he had gone missing, Stonehouse had been “mired in debt and addicted to prescription drugs”. His personal life was in disarray after an affair with his secretary.

But the 49-year-old soon turned up alive and well, having travelled “to Australia under an assumed name”, said the BBC. After being questioned by Australian police as to whether he was the recently disappeared Lord Lucan, it was soon found he must be the “other missing Englishman”.

Stonehouse confessed and was brought back to the UK to be tried, and eventually found guilty of “various counts of theft, fraud and deception”, said the i news site. He remained the MP for Walsall North until his imprisonment in August 1976 (having been sentenced to seven years, of which he served three). The subsequent by-election was won by the Conservatives, “putting further pressure” on the “struggling” incumbent Labour government.

Jeremy Thorpe

The Liberal party leader Jeremy Thorpe ended his parliamentary career in an “extraordinary tale of sex, power and corruption”, said The Guardian. In 1979 he was put on trial accused of arranging for a hitman to kill his former lover Norman Scott on Exmoor in 1975.

The “hapless hitman”, Andrew Newton, managed only to shoot Scott’s dog, a Great Dane called Rinka, “instead of his human target”, said The Spectator.

When Newton was jailed for two years for the dog’s killing in 1976, the scandal was enough for Thorpe to lose the confidence of his party, and he was forced to resign in May of that year. Though he was acquitted at his own trial three years later, the “lurid speculation” about the facts of the case “dogged” the rest of his life.

He made “several attempts” to enter the House of Lords, said The Spectator, but “never managed to return to public life”.

Lord Lambton

Lord Antony Lambton was the son of the Earl of Durham, who “gave up his title” to pursue a political career and led a “decidedly colourful private life”, said the Evening Standard.

A “self-confessed drug user” and “prodigiously unfaithful to his wife”, Lambton was “finally exposed” in May 1973 while serving in the Conservative government as under-secretary of state for defence. Lambton was photographed in bed with two prostitutes, smoking cannabis, by one of the prostitutes’ husbands, Colin Levy – who had used hidden cameras and a microphone to capture the Berwick-upon-Tweed MP.

After the scandal broke, Lambton was “forced to resign and later fled to Italy”, said the Daily Mail. He lived in a mansion in Tuscany until his death in 2006.

Edwina Currie

Edwina Currie

(Image credit: Peter Jordan/Getty Images)

Although she remained an MP until 1997, even Edwina Currie recognises that eggs “destroyed” her political career in 1988. She wrote in The Telegraph that she had “no regrets” about the controversy, but her warning on television that most “egg production in this country, sadly, is now infected with salmonella” resulted in her exit from Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Egg sales “plummeted by 50%” and almost “four million healthy hens were culled”, said The Telegraph. Currie, who earnt the nickname “Eggwina”, was denounced as a “scaremonger”, and pressure from Tory MPs in rural farming constituencies eventually meant she was forced to quit as under-secretary of state for health.

Though she was “later vindicated by a Whitehall report” about the levels of salmonella, the controversy had consigned her to the back benches.

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Richard Windsor is a freelance writer for The Week Digital. He began his journalism career writing about politics and sport while studying at the University of Southampton. He then worked across various football publications before specialising in cycling for almost nine years, covering major races including the Tour de France and interviewing some of the sport’s top riders. He led Cycling Weekly’s digital platforms as editor for seven of those years, helping to transform the publication into the UK’s largest cycling website. He now works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant.