Her put-down came as Conservative critics of Boris Johnson said the pressure they were put under could amount to “blackmail” as part of an effort to prevent the prime minister being ousted from office.
The PM insisted he had “seen no evidence” to support the incendiary claim made by senior Conservative William Wragg amid anger over allegations of rule-breaking parties in No 10.
In an eyebrow-raising comment, Dorries, the former I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here contestant who is now culture secretary in Johnson’s Cabinet, said: “That is nonsense because that is not how government works.
“It is just attention-seeking behaviour from William Wragg who has been a constant critic of the prime minister, who delivered us the greatest majority since Margaret Thatcher.”
Wragg said he had received reports of conduct including “members of staff at 10 Downing Street, special advisers, government ministers and others encouraging the publication of stories in the press seeking to embarrass those who they suspect of lacking confidence in the prime minister”.
“The intimidation of a member of parliament is a serious matter. Reports of which I am aware would seem to constitute blackmail,” the chairman of the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee announced at the beginning of a hearing on Thursday.
“As such it would be my general advice to colleagues to report these matters to the speaker of the House of Commons and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.”
Many claimed Dorries’ words rang hollow given her repeated criticism of prime ministers Theresa May and David Cameron, and her headline-grabbing turn on the ITV show.
Dorries also memorably referred to Cameron and George Osborne as “arrogant posh boys”. On I’m A Celebrity, her lacklustre performance on in the “Bug Burial” Bushtucker Trial failed to win any food for her campmates, and she subsequently became the first of the 2012 ITV show’s intake to be voted off by the watching public.
Wragg is one of a handful of Tory backbenchers to have said publicly they have submitted a letter to the chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, Graham Brady, calling for a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s leadership.
He said the conduct of the government whips’ office threatening to withdraw public funding from MPs’ constituencies may have breached the ministerial code.
Christian Wakeford, the MP who defected from the Tories to Labour in protest at Johnson’s leadership and the row over Downing Street parties, said he was threatened about the loss of a school in his constituency if he did not toe the line.
Speaking to BBC North West, he said: “I was threatened that I would not get the school for Radcliffe if I did not vote in one particular way. This is a town that’s not had a high school for the best part of 10 years.”
A Labour source said the vote in question related to free school meals.
Johnson, on a visit to Taunton, said: “I’ve seen no evidence, heard no evidence, to support any of those allegations.
“What I am focused on is what we’re doing to deal with the number one priority of the British people, which is coming through Covid.”
He said he would “of course” look for evidence to support the allegations, but No 10 suggested there were no plans to launch an investigation as demanded by Labour.
Tory MP Michael Fabricant, a former whip, also described Wragg’s comments as “nonsense”.
“If I reported every time I had been threatened by a whip or if a whip reported every time I had threatened them, the police wouldn’t have any time to conduct any other police work,” he said.