Born in Liverpool, she began work as a trainee nurse and subsequently became a medical representative. During her early career she spent a year in Zambia as the head of a community school. After returning to the UK she founded Company Kids Ltd, which provided child day-care services for working parents. She sold the company in 1998.
Dorries was elected to the House of Commons at the 2005 general election as MP for the safe seat of Mid-Bedfordshire, with a majority of 11,355. She is on the political right of the Conservative Party and has introduced several unsuccessful Private Member's Bills, including attempts to reduce the time limit for abortions in Great Britain and changes to the rules regarding counselling for the women involved, and the advocacy of sexual abstinence for girls in sex education. She is an opponent of the current Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, and has attempted to have him removed from the post. She also clashed with the former party leader, David Cameron, describing him and George Osborne as "two arrogant posh boys". In 2008 Dorries won The Spectator magazine's Readers' Representative Award, and in 2012 she was voted best MP on Twitter by the politics.co.uk website.
On 6 November 2012, she was suspended from the parliamentary Conservative Party owing to her decision to take part in I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! without informing the Chief Whip. The Party whip was returned to Dorries on 8 May 2013 and she was re-admitted to the parliamentary party.
Journalist Quentin Letts has accused other MPs of feeling "envy" for her flamboyance and publicity skills, and in 2012 Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman wrote about "how she stands out in Parliament – a tropical bird in amongst all that dull, grey, plumage on the Commons benches." In 2013 Adrian Hilton wrote that Dorries "radiates the sort of plain-speaking, unstuffy approachability which is rapidly becoming rather attractive to the disaffected and disillusioned masses".
Dorries was born as Nadine Vanessa Bargery in Liverpool. Her father was a bus driver who became a lift operator having suffered from Raynaud’s disease, which had necessitated the amputation of his toes. Her father was a Roman Catholic of Irish descent, while her mother was an English Protestant. Dorries was raised in her mother's faith. She was raised in Anfield, Liverpool, and educated at Rose Heath Primary School, and Halewood Grange Comprehensive School (while Alan Bleasdale taught there) before her family moved to Runcorn. She grew up on a council estate. She entered nursing in 1975 as a trainee at Warrington General Hospital.
According to an interview with The Times in 2014, her parents divorced when she was in her teens and, while training to be a nurse at 21, she shared a flat with her father. He died at this time at the age of 42. From 1978 to 1981, she practised as a nurse in both Warrington and Liverpool according to a 2009 report, but in Liverpool and London according to her CV when she was a candidate in 2001. She left the Merseyside area after she married mining engineer Paul Dorries.
In 1982, she became a medical representative to Ethicla Ltd for a year, before spending a year in Zambia (1983–84) as the head of a community school, where her husband ran a copper mine. Dorries founded Company Kids Ltd in 1987 which provided child day-care services for working parents. The company was sold in 1998 to BUPA; Dorries was subsequently a director of the health provider during the following year.
As Nadine Bargery, she was selected as the Prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Hazel Grove in Spring 2000. Her candidacy split the constituency party, and she was briefly deselected in August before being centrally imposed. Contesting the seat at the 2001 general election, she was unsuccessful in her attempt to succeed the Liberal Democrat candidate Andrew Stunell, who retained the seat by 8,435 votes. Dorries worked for three years as a special adviser to Oliver Letwin, then Shadow Chancellor, including managing his relations with the media.
In 2009, she gave this account of her 2005 selection:
"Three weeks before the 2005 general election I, a council estate Scouser, was selected as the Conservative candidate to represent a southern rural constituency. Because the vacancy occurred so quickly and so close to D-day, the party provided my association with a shortlist of seventeen candidates, of which about five were women. Following a long day of interviews in hot sunny rooms, the list was whittled down to a shortlist of three ... I was informed that I had been selected outright on the first ballot ... That pride, that sense of achievement, the knowledge that I was selected on the basis of my performance and merit above all other candidates on that day is what enables me to hold my head up high in this place."
Dorries's account of her own selection appears to contradict a news report which The Times ran at the time, reporting that Conservative Campaign Headquarters placed a majority of women on the shortlist and pressed for the selection of a female candidate:
"Mrs Dorries, who has three teenage children, easily beat her 11 rivals and won the plum safe seat on the first ballot at the selection this weekend. Party officials were thrilled that the seat has gone to a woman. Previously, only two women had been selected in the 17 safe seats where sitting MPs have retired. Senior party figures had made clear to local dignitaries that they would like the seat to go to a woman and presented the constituency with a shortlist of seven women and five men to underline the point."
In a debate on Woman's Hour, broadcast on 22 August 2001, Dorries (as Nadine Bargery) had advocated all-women shortlists if the behaviour of Conservative selection committees did not change. In 2009 though, Dorries was highly critical of David Cameron's proposal to consider using all-women shortlists, arguing against a move which would create "two classes of MPs". She wrote that "Sometimes I feel sorry for some of the Labour women who were selected via all-women shortlists. Everyone knows who they are. They are constantly derided."
Dorries was elected to the House of Commons at the 2005 general election for the safe seat of Mid-Bedfordshire on the retirement through ill health after a series of scandals of Jonathan Sayeed, with a majority of 11,355, and made her maiden speech on 25 May 2005. She was re-elected in 2010, with an increased majority and a swing of 2.3% from the Lib Dems.
Dorries, described as "a right-wing, working-class Conservative", is a member of the socially conservative Cornerstone Group. A Christian, she has said in an interview for a Salvation Army newspaper: "I am not an MP for any reason other than because God wants me to be. There is nothing I did that got me here; it is what God did. There is nothing amazing or special about me, I am just a conduit for God to use."
Dorries initially supported the attempt of David Davis to become Conservative leader in 2005 but later withdrew her endorsement. David Cameron, the successful candidate, though "represent[s] everything that through my life . . . [I have] been suspicious of." In May 2007, she criticised Cameron for ignoring the recommendations of the Conservative public policy working group in favour of grammar schools. However, she did defend the selection of Elizabeth Truss in 2009, whose Conservative candidature was called into question after an extra-marital affair was revealed.
Dorries served as a member of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee. In the year to November 2008, she attended only 2% of sessions. The committee then reformed as the Science and Technology Select Committee; she did not attend a single session. In 2010, she was elected to the Health Select Committee.
Dorries has said she witnessed "botched" abortions on two occasions, an experience that influenced her campaign to lower the point during a pregnancy at which an abortion can be performed.
On 31 October 2006, Dorries introduced a Private Member's Bill in the House of Commons, which would have reduced the time limit for abortion in Great Britain from 24 to 21 weeks; introduced a ten-day 'cooling-off' period for women wishing to have an abortion, during which time the woman would be required to undergo counselling; and accelerate access to abortion at the end of the cooling-off period. Dorries alleged she had received death threats from pro-choice activists and was given police protection. Parliament voted by 187 to 108 to reject the bill.
In May 2008, she tabled an amendment to the proposed Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill seeking to reduce the upper limit for abortions to 20 weeks from the current 24 weeks of pregnancy. Reportedly written by Andrea Williams then of The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, Dorries has denied that her campaigning on the abortion issue receives funding from Christian fundamentalist groups, although Dorries website for the "20 Reasons for 20 Weeks" campaign in 2008 was registered by Christian Concern For Our Nation (CCFON), another organisation with which Williams is involved; one of the pressure group's interns set up the website without charge to Dorries.
Dorries' amendment was defeated by 332 votes to 190, with a separate 22-week limit opposed by 304 votes to 233 - with MPs continuing to support the 24-week limit. She said of her tactics on this issue in 2007: "If I were to argue that all abortions should be banned, the ethical discussions would go round in circles ... My view is that the only way forward is to argue for a reduction in the time limit ... it’s every baby’s right to have a life."
In April 2009, Dorries claimed to have commenced legal action following the leaked publication of emails sent by Damian McBride, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's head of strategy and planning, which suggested spreading a rumour that Dorries had a one-night stand with a fellow MP, in an email to Derek Draper, a Labour-supporting blogger. McBride resigned and Dorries denounced the accusation as libellous: "[t]he allegations regarding myself are 100 per cent untrue", and demanded an apology intent on exposing the Number 10 "cesspit".
Brown subsequently said he was "sorry" and that he took "full responsibility for what happened". Dorries threatened libel proceedings against McBride, Draper and Downing Street but failed to carry out that threat. McBride paid Dorries an undisclosed sum, estimated at £1,000 plus £2,500 towards her costs.
In May 2009 The Daily Telegraph, as part of its exposure of MPs' expenses claims, questioned whether the property in Dorries's constituency, on which she claimed £24,222 Additional Costs Allowance (for "secondary" housing costs), had been in fact her main or only home from 2007 onwards. The newspaper also queried hotel bills including one for 'Mr N Dorries': these had been disallowed by the Fees Office and Dorries said they were submitted by mistake. On 22 May she went on BBC Radio 4 to draw parallels between the McCarthy 'Witch-Hunts' and the press's 'drip-drip' revelation of MP's expenses, eliciting David Cameron's public criticism. She claimed everyone was fearing a 'suicide', and colleagues were constantly checking up on each other. Later in the day her blog was taken down. It transpired that Withers, lawyers acting for the Barclay Brothers, the owners of the Daily Telegraph, had required the removal of the blog, on threat of libel action against the service provider.
In January 2010, it emerged that Dorries was being investigated by John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, regarding her claim for second home expenses There was some debate as to the location of her main home. It was also revealed that Dorries had claimed £20,000 in office expenses for work undertaken by a media relations and public affairs company.
In late 2009 Nadine Dorries campaigned against what she called "a proposal to ban the wearing of high heels in the office" which was to be debated at the 2009 Trades Union Congress (TUC). The motion, submitted to the TUC by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, pointed out that "around two million days a year are lost through sickness as a result of lower limb disorders" and that "many employers in the retail sector force women workers to wear high heels as part of their dress code". It did not call for a ban on high heels at work, but rather called on employers to consider the health impact of their dress codes and encourage the wearing of healthy, comfortable shoes.
Dorries is an opponent of the current Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. Prior to his election in June 2009, she accused him of opportunism and disloyalty to the Conservative Party and questioned his mental stability. She described his election as "a two-fingered salute to the British people from Labour MPs, and to the Conservative Party". After Bercow's wife, Sally, was approved as a Labour parliamentary candidate and gave an interview about her personal life, Dorries argued that the Bercows were damaging the historic respect accorded to the office of Speaker.
In February 2010 Dorries took part in the Channel 4 documentary series Tower Block of Commons, in which MPs stay with welfare claimants.
In October 2010, Dorries suggested that benefit claimants who made more than 35,000 postings on Twitter should be reported to the Department for Work and Pensions. On being told by the Bedfordshire on Sunday newspaper that one of her constituents was out of work because of ill health and had posted more than 37,000 tweets, Dorries told the newspaper that her constituent's tweeting gave housebound disabled people a bad name.
She was reportedly part of a plot to oust John Bercow from the Speaker's chair in the run up to the 2010 general election, and, after the election, sent an email to all new MPs advocating his removal. Writing in the Daily Mail, just before his tenure was reapproved, she objected to Bercow's abandonment of the speaker's "magnificent" ceremonial clothes and placed herself among those MPs who accuse him of not carrying forward "the great tradition of authority, control and impartiality".
On 9 May 2010, two days after regaining the Mid-Bedfordshire constituency in the general election, The Sunday Times revealed that Dorries was facing the first complaint about an MP's expenses claim of the new parliament. The newspaper reported that she had claimed around £10,000 for an annual report in 2007 on her performance as an MP, but that her former Commons researcher had never seen the report or worked on it. Dorries insisted that she had indeed published the report, placing a photograph of it on her blog. She subsequently told the Biggleswade Advertiser that the report was never printed and a credit note issued with refund on 13 September 2008.
On 13 January 2011 it was announced by the Daily Mirror that police were investigating Dorries concerning her expenses. Three days later, The Sunday Times reported that police had since handed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration. In February 2013, it was reported that Dorries was being investigated by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority over her expenses, although no specific details were given at this time.
On 27 June 2013, Dorries announced she would no longer claim her personal expenses as an MP, but would draw on her salary for such costs. She argued that she would be in a better position to campaign for the abolition of the present expenses arrangements by doing so. Dorries herself stood for election as a deputy speaker after one of the three posts became vacant. In the Commons vote during October 2013 she gained the support of 13 MPs, and was the first of the six candidates to be eliminated in the voting process.
A complaint from the Liberal Conspiracy website, regarding Dorries' use of the House of Commons' Portcullis emblem on her blog, had been upheld in March 2008, on the basis that Dorries "gave the impression it had some kind of parliamentary endorsement or authority."
On 21 October 2010, the MP's standards watchdog criticised Dorries for maintaining a blog which would "mislead constituents" as to how much actual time she was spending in her constituency. Dorries admitted "My blog is 70% fiction and 30% fact. It is written as a tool to enable my constituents to know me better and to reassure them of my commitment to Mid Bedfordshire. I rely heavily on poetic licence and frequently replace one place name/event/fact with another." Referring to her main home being in Gloucestershire she said "I have always been aware that should my personal domestic arrangements become the knowledge of my political opponents, they would be able to exaggerate that to good effect." Another example given was that Dorries falsely claimed in her blog that her daughter was going to school in the constituency.
She gave an explanation of the statement to her local newspaper, in which she revealed that her whereabouts on her blog had been disguised, on police advice, because of unwanted attention. She also claims that she made the statement in order to protect her staff and family.
On 27 October 2010 Dorries partially retracted her 70% fiction claim, posting a blog entry which stated that "It also only takes any individual with a smattering of intelligence to see that everything on the blog is accurate, because it is largely a record of real time events. It was only ever the perception of where I was on any particular day which was disguised."
The conservative journalist Peter Oborne suggested, in his Telegraph blog a fortnight later, that Cameron should have "ordered Miss Dorries to apologise personally to her constituents, and stripped her of the party whip there and then."
On 4 May 2011, Dorries proposed a bill to require that sex education in schools should include content promoting abstinence to girls aged 13 to 16 which was presented as teaching them "how to say no." While sex education already mentions the option of abstinence, the bill would have required active promotion of abstinence to girls, with no such requirement in the education provided to boys. Owing to Dorries' claims about practices used in teaching about sex, Sarah Ditum in The Guardian accused Dorries of making Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) "sound like a terrifying exercise in depravity."
The bill drew criticism from health care and sex education professionals, questioning claims made during the bill's reading. Labour MP Chris Bryant described the bill as being "the daftest piece of legislation I have seen". Dorries accused her opponents of behaving as though she was advocating "the compulsory wearing of chastity belts for all teenage girls."
On 16 May 2011, Dorries appeared to suggest that a lack of awareness of abstinence as a sexual choice among young girls is linked to rates of child sexual abuse. Dorries stated: "If a stronger 'just say no' message was given to children in school, there might be an impact on sex abuse, because a lot of girls, when sex abuse takes place don't realise until later that was a wrong thing to do... I don't think people realise that if we did empower this message into girls, imbued this message in school, we would probably have less sex abuse".
The sexual abstinence bill was set for second reading on 20 January 2012 (Bill 185). after she was granted leave to introduce the Bill on a vote of 67 to 61 on 4 May 2011. The Bill, placed eighth on the order paper, was withdrawn shortly before its second reading.
Dorries proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill 2011 which would have blocked abortion services such as BPAS and Marie Stopes International from providing counselling services. She argued that these organisations had a vested financial interest in encouraging abortions, but according to Zoe Williams "independent" counselling services could be "faith-based groups" intent on discouraging women from having an abortion. David Cameron's government at first supported the proposal, but later changed its mind, reportedly because Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was opposed to the change. Dorries criticism of Cameron's policy shift was supported by some commentators such as Cristina Odone who shares Dorries concerns. Clegg's apparent opposition was for Dorries a means of "blackmailing our Prime Minister", and a question regarding Lib Dems influence was the source of Cameron's description of Dorries as "extremely frustrated" at Prime minister's questions on 7 September. Cameron was criticised by feminists among others for the comment, and subsequently apologised.
The issue of abortion counselling was debated in the Commons immediately following this incident. The motion was originally seconded by Labour MP Frank Field, but he withdrew his support after health minister Anne Milton intervened to suggest the government would support the "spirit" of Dorries amendment. The amendment was lost by 368 votes to 118, a majority of 250. Despite this, Dorries claimed a victory because of Milton's comments.
In August 2011 Nadine Dorries led the first delegation of British members of Parliament to Equatorial Guinea. Equatorial Guinea is a small African country, but the third biggest oil producer on the continent, ruled since 1979 by the President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. It has one of the worst human rights records on the continent. Although she met the prime minister of Equatorial Guinea, Ignacio Milam Tang, she did not mention this high-level meeting in her blog. She has been quoted as saying to him: "We are here to dispel some of the myths about Equatorial Guinea and also with humility to offer you help to avoid the mistakes we have made." According to the official website of Equatorial Guinea, Dorries was one of nine British MPs on the trip.
On 6 March 2012, Dorries attacked Cameron and Nick Clegg of the Coalition over their taxation policies. Referring to the proposed cuts in child benefit, she told the Financial Times "The problem is that policy is being run by two public schoolboys who don't know what it's like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can't afford it for their children's lunchboxes. What's worse, they don't care, either". She again criticised Cameron, and also George Osborne, in similar terms on 23 April, calling them "two arrogant posh boys who don't know the price of milk - who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others". Following Dorries' claim, in a Mail on Sunday article, that Cameron could be replaced within a year, George Osborne said on The Andrew Marr Show on 6 May: "Nadine Dorries, for the last seven years, I don't think has agreed with anything either myself, David Cameron, or indeed most Conservatives in the leadership of the party have done". In the summer, Dorries criticised Osborne again for sending a badly briefed junior treasury minister, Chloe Smith, to deputise for him on Newsnight in order to defend a government u-turn on fuel duty.
Dorries opposed the government's ultimately successful legislation to introduce same-sex marriage. In May 2012, on the Conservative Home website she wrote: "Gay marriage is a policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin [as reform of the House of Lords]". In an interview with Mehdi Hasan in October 2012, Dorries said she favoured gay marriage, but only after Britain has left the European Convention on Human Rights. In an exchange with Iain Dale around the same time, she speculated that issue could cost her (then) party 4 million votes at the next general election.
In February 2013, at the time of the Bills second reading in the House of Commons, she argued that the bill being put forward before parliament avoided the issue of consummation and thus contradicted the Marriages Act 1973, and therefore did not make gay marriage equal to heterosexual marriage. She also argued that there was no provision for adultery, or faithlessness, as it might apply to gay couples because the term applies to heterosexual couples only.
Early in November 2012 it was announced that Dorries had agreed to appear in I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. Other Conservatives objected to her decision and her constituents were "overwhelmingly negative" on local radio. Neither the Conservative Chief Whip, Sir George Young, or the chairman of the Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association were informed of her absence from Parliament. The Conservative Party suspended Dorries from the party whip after her confirmation that she was planning to be absent from Parliament. John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, received a complaint about her behaviour.
The series began on 11 November 2012, but on 21 November Dorries became the first contestant to be voted off the show. Dorries met George Young on 27 November, who asked her to rebuild her relationship with the party. She then sat as an independent MP, but continued to deny the whip had been withdrawn, claiming it had merely been suspended.
On 8 May 2013, Dorries regained the Conservative whip without any conditions having been applied. George Osborne reportedly objected to her regaining the parliamentary whip, while commentators speculated that, should she not be readmitted, Dorries might join UKIP, which had made gains from the Conservatives in the previous week's local elections. Peter Oborne observed at this point that Dorries had still not declared the amount she was paid for her appearance on I'm a Celebrity... in the register of members interests, last published on 22 April, despite her promise to do so.
Shortly after regaining the whip, Dorries floated the idea of joint Conservative-UKIP candidates at the next general election in 2015, with herself as such a candidate. "This is not party policy and it's not going to happen", a Conservative Party spokesman told the Press Association.
Following the publication of a report by the Standards Committee on 11 November 2013 Dorries apologised in the House of Commons to her fellow MPs for two errors of judgement. Her confidentiality agreement with ITV over her fee for appearing on I'm A Celebrity... had led to her refusing to disclose the information to Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary commissioner for standards. In so doing, she had broken the MP's code of conduct. The all-party standards committee said that she should never have agreed to such a clause in her contract. In addition, Dorries had falsely claimed that payment for eight pieces of work in the media did not need to be declared as they were made to Averbrook, her company, rather than to herself directly. Andy McSmith, writing in The Independent at the beginning of December 2013, disclosed that Dorries had finally disclosed her income (amounting to £20,228 in total) from appearing on I'm a Celebrity... in the register of members' interests.
Dorries' daughter was among the highest earning family members employed by MPs with a salary of £40,000-45,000 as an office manager. This is despite the fact that her daughter lived 96 miles away from the office. Subsequently her sister was taken on as senior secretary with a salary of £30,000-35,000. Ben Glaze, a journalist with the Sunday Mirror, was threatened by Dorries on Twitter for asking questions about the MP's employment practices: "Be seen within a mile of my daughters and I will nail your balls to the floor... using your own front teeth. Do you get that?"
In October 2013, Dorries attacked a fellow Conservative MP, Kris Hopkins, as "one of parliament's slimiest, nastiest MP's" on her Twitter account, and criticized Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to promote Hopkins to a junior ministerial post within the Department for Communities and Local Government as "a really awful decision".
On 29 May 2015, the independent candidate in Mid Bedfordshire, Tim Ireland, lodged an appeal against the result accusing Dorries of breaches of section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 by making false statements about his character. The development first emerged in early June after the three-week petition for such an action had expired. The petition was rejected by the High Court of Justice because it was served at Dorries' constituency office and not her home address.
It became public knowledge in September 2013 that Dorries had signed a three-book deal for a six-figure advance. The first book was published the following April.
Her first novel, The Four Streets, which draws on her Liverpool Catholic background, became a No.1 best-selling e-book with 100,000 copies sold in the format by July 2014, although print sales in hardback and paperback were significantly lower with, respectively, 2,735 and 637 units sold by then. Dorries' work of fiction gained mostly negative reviews. Sarah Ditum in the New Statesman complained that some of sentences "read like clippings from Wikipedia" while Christopher Howse, writing for The Daily Telegraph, thought The Four Streets was "the worst novel I've read in 10 years." "You should read the next one. It’s much better", Dorries told Ann Treneman of The Times.
Dorries was married to Paul with whom she had three daughters. The couple separated in 2007, and divorced later that year.
Dorries is a keen supporter of Liverpool Football Club. She has said that her great-grandfather, George Bargery, was one of the founders of Everton Football Club, and either the club's first goalkeeper, or that he played in goal for the club in its first Football League game, at home game against Accrington.