7 Oct 2011

What Wollaston really said about MPs drinking

Spare a thought for Sarah Wollaston as she comes face-to-face with Westminster colleagues when the Commons returns next week.

Wollaston, a former GP, may now be in some trouble for remarks she made about fellow-MPs while speaking at a fringe meeting at the Tory conference on Tuesday.

Wollaston came to prominence in 2009 when she was picked as Conservative candidate for Totnes in the first British primary election, in which all the voters in the constituency  got a postal vote.

The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday reported her as saying at the meeting that some MPs are “too drunk to stand”.

Well I was at that fringe meeting – sober – and Dr Wollaston didn’t say that, though I felt her remarks were still sufficiently interesting to tweet.

First, she said it was shocking that most MPs often don’t know what they’re voting for when they vote in Parliament. A pretty valid point, I would have thought, though I can hardly see the whips putting up boards to tell MPs what each vote is about – it might get quite complicated, and some MPs might start having doubts.

Wollaston’s second point, a few moments later, was not linked to the first.  She observed that people would not expect a surgeon to be allowed to perform an operation after they had drunk a bottle of wine over lunch, and then said that many MPs drank too heavily.  Again, a very valid point, I would have thought.

Once she’d made the drinking remark, however, the Labour former Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis turned to me and said rather loudly: “There’s your story.”

But I don’t recall her saying MPs were “too drunk to stand”.  I certainly would have tweeted it if she had.

The Conservative whip Michael Fabricant was in the audience, and will no doubt be reporting back to the Whips’ Office on what Dr Wollaston said – accurately, I trust.  Fabricant told the meeting that he was a whip “of the soft and cuddly kind”.

The member for Totnes is not, however, the favourite MP in the Government Whips Office, or in Downing Street.

After Wollaston raised strong objections in the health bill last spring, I am told that David Cameron was so upset with her that he told a colleague that the Conservatives would be holding no more primary elections.

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