Dorries vs Mensch: Conservative MPs in Twitter spat

Louise Mensch Louise Mensch was described as "void of principle"

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It might not be a feud to rival Heath vs Thatcher or Blair vs Brown but the row between Conservative MPs Nadine Dorries and Louise Mensch is in the tradition of great Westminster spats.

Ms Dorries started the ball rolling over the weekend by accusing colleague Mrs Mensch of letting down female MPs and handing a by-election victory to Labour by resigning her seat.

On the website ConservativeHome, Ms Dorries wrote that Mrs Mensch was putting "her own ambitions first" and described the outgoing MP for Corby as "void of principle".

Mrs Mensch attracted a lot of column inches earlier this month when she announced her intention to step down as MP for Corby, saying she was finding it increasingly difficult to juggle career and family.

A few current and former MPs - ranging from Edwina Currie to Norman Tebbit - questioned her motives at the time, but none in such a forthright fashion as Ms Dorries has now done.

Under the guise of an article criticising the Sun's decision to publish naked photos of Prince Harry - a move Mrs Mensch has defended - the MP for Mid Bedfordshire launched a wide-ranging attack on her party colleague.

"She is a former MP who has resigned midterm, supposedly for the sake of her family and has, without doubt, handed her seat to Labour," she wrote.

"A pill very hard for some to swallow when she appears on her social media site and Twitter by the minute and has no problem leaving her family, popping up on the media on a regular basis, even to condemn Prince Harry."

'Naughty step'

Start Quote

Nadine Dorries

She is a former MP who has resigned midterm, supposedly for the sake of her family and has, without doubt, handed her seat to Labour.”

End Quote Nadine Dorries

Ms Dorries also accused Mrs Mensch of having "schmoozed" James Murdoch during a hearing of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which the MP left early in order to do the school run, and suggested this might improve her future job prospects.

"This was stomach turning for female MPs, who act in a professional manner in order not to be judged lacking against our male peers, knowing that hell would freeze over before any male MP would behave in the same way," she said.

Ms Dorries and Mrs Mensch both have three children.

Mrs Mensch, whose staunch defence of press freedom and contribution during the phone hacking hearings won praise from other MPs, was comparatively brief and understated in her response.

She wrote on Twitter: "Waking up to find self on the Nadine Dorries naughty step, which is a pity as I spend my entire life worrying about what she thinks (ahem)."

'A-lister'

The personality clash between the two may have as much to do with their respective career trajectories and standings within the party as issues to do with gender politics or ideology.

Ms Dorries - a former nurse - has been one of David Cameron and George Osborne's fiercest critics, describing them as "two arrogant posh boys".

Nadine Dorries explains her comments to the BBC

Relations have been strained since the prime minister described the backbench MP as "frustrated" during an exchange in the Commons - a comment for which he subsequently apologised.

In contrast, the chick-lit novelist was fiercely loyal and said to be regarded highly by the leadership.

She was one of the number of "A list" candidates with relatively shallow links to the Conservatives who were seen as symbolic of the party's modernisation and who won seats at the last election.

Mrs Mensch referred to Mr Cameron's personal support in her resignation letter - although her decision to step down has given the prime minister a by-election headache he could do without.

The MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire is expected to formally resign when Parliament returns from its summer recess, with a by-election expected to follow on 15 November.

Her departure for New York - to be with her husband, Metallica manager Peter Mensch - has also probably ended the chance of an interesting face-to-face encounter with Ms Dorries in the Commons.

But the two women are among the two most prodigious parliamentary users of social media and so this might not be the last time that they cross swords.

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