Does she get it?

Contemplating Nadine Dorries, a Tory colleague first rolled his eyes...then paused...then confessed his secret fear: that she tapped into, and understood, forces in modern politics which he didn't even detect.

Her decision to spend a few weeks on I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here! is widely regarded as an example of political self-harm. The constituency grandees are not amused, the whip has been suspended, Her Majesty's Press is scornful, and the dreadful spectre of Lembit Opik is conjured up to warn us of the horrible consequences of MPs going celeb.

Ms Dorries said her motive was to discuss her issues before a wider audience, to reach the parts other political discourse doesn't reach.

And there is a prospect that she might achieve a kind of political alchemy and combine base politics with celebrity. It's a risk, but her spell in the jungle might give her the kind of recognition and approval that would all but free her from the constraints of party - making her electable as an independent figure, if those constraints became too stifling.

Elected independents in British politics (as opposed to MPs who are elected under a party label and resign the whip) are rare creatures - but not as rare as they used to be. Dr Richard Taylor and Dai Davis and Peter Law managed the trick in the last couple of parliaments…and Bob Spink, who quit the Tories, gave his successor a run for her money in the 2010 general election.

And look at Bradford West, where George Galloway's populist talents gave Labour a bloody nose. His success has added to the sense in Westminster that some politicians can now sense opportunities and political vulnerabilities that are not obvious to the rest….which makes them pretty nervous.

In the information age, an MP may well be able to get elected without a local machine to deliver leaflets and raise funds - an MP who's a Twitter phenomenon could be unstoppable. So Nadine may just be ushering in the age of the maverick. Of course, Ms Dorries may have none of this in mind. But the thought has occurred to quite a few of her colleagues - and her debut on Sunday will attract a small but concerned additional audience.

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