David Cameron has disowned the Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries, who claimed that MPs were being pushed to breaking point by the “torture” of having their expenses claims made public.
Miss Dorries accused The Telegraph of launching “McCarthyite witch hunts” against MPs and suggested that the prospect of having their expenses published had left many of them “beginning to crack”.
Her apparent call for public sympathy for MPs prompted a series of angry responses from listeners and was publicly dismissed by Mr Cameron in a separate BBC radio interview hours later.
He said: “Of course MPs are concerned about what is happening but, frankly, MPs ought to be concerned about what their constituents think and ought to be worrying about the people who put us where we are.”
A Tory party spokesman added: “Nadine Dorries’s comments were made without the authorisation or support of the Conservative Party. These are her own views and in no way reflect the views of the party at large.”
In a post online on her blog after Mr Cameron spoke, Miss Dorries denied that her party leader had reprimanded her. “David Cameron has slapped me down? Excuse me? Err, no he hasn’t,” she wrote.
Miss Dorries went on to claim that The Telegraph’s daily disclosures of MPs’ claims constituted “torture”.
“Doing this day after day after day amounts to a form of torture which any group of human beings would find difficult to bear,” she wrote.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed that Miss Dorries designated a house she rented in her constituency as her “second home” for the purposes of her expenses. On her website, she said that she slept there during the week and her daughter attended a nearby school. She claimed more than £18,000 in rent on the property.
Miss Dorries, the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, defended MPs’ use of public money to furnish second homes, saying that the £24,000-a-year additional costs allowance (ACA) was effectively part of their salary.
In a BBC Radio Four interview, she said MPs were justified in their use of the allowance because officials from the Commons fees office had told them it was theirs to do with as they wished. “MPs were told to use that money because it wasn’t expenses, it was an allowance in lieu of not having pay rises,” she said.
In his interview Mr Cameron disclosed that he had warned Anthony Steen, the Tory MP for Totnes who claimed that the public outrage was inspired by jealousy, that he would have the Tory whip withdrawn if there was any repeat of his remarks.
“One more squeak like that and he will have the whip taken away from him so fast his feet won’t touch the ground,” Mr Cameron said.
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