HOW many of you had heard of Nadine Dorries two weeks ago? How many of you know the name of the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire now?

Bit of a difference between those two figures, I would guess.

Why this sudden spike in interest in the Tory backbencher? Did she make a dramatic speech in Parliament last week? Has she been storming round the TV studios in the past 10 days to bang the drum for some cause close to her heart?

Of course not. The honourable member has rocketed up the awareness stakes by flying out to Oz to take part in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here.

Perhaps it was an oversight, but Ms Dorries neglected to mention her travel plans to party bosses before she headed Down Under for a month.

When the MP is good enough to return to her duties, she will apparently be summoned to a meeting “without coffee” with the chief whip.

Ms Dorries has already been suspended from the Parliamentary Conservative Party and it may be that it’s not just the jungle which she’ll be leaving in the next few weeks.

Some colleagues have not taken kindly to the news that one of their number would rather eat insects than share a green bench with them.

“Taking leave for a month from parliament shows utter contempt,” said Elmet and Rothwell MP Alec Shelbrooke last week while Michael Fabricant of Lichfield accused Ms Dorries of “letting down her colleagues and her constituency”.

“I’m not fit to be an MP – kick me out of here,” should be her motto, Claire Perry of Devizes suggested.

These criticisms are based on the idea that Ms Dorries has “abandoned her constituents” by heading Down Under with Ant and Dec.

But, if this is the case, is it really such a bad thing?

Those just tuning in to the world of Nadine Dorries may not be aware that, when she isn’t surrounded by antipodean wildlife, the honourable member likes nothing better than trying to turn the clock back on women’s rights.

Given that Ms Dorries main contribution to Parliament in the last few years has been her attempt to limit abortion rights, it’s probably no bad thing she is in the jungle for a month.

She can’t do any damage out there – except to her own reputation.