The Prime Minister has said that he did not know that Nadine Dorries would be on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Dorries has responded by making the counter-claim that she had informed the whip's office that she would be away for a month. Now, these two claims address different issues: one is about the Prime Minister having knowledge of Dorries making an appearance on a television show; the other is about the chief whip's office having knowledge of Dorries taking a month off (and giving permission for this). As it stands, one, both, or neither could be true. The counter-claim from Dorries (which has been responded to by the whip's office) does not address the specific claim made by David Cameron. The responses to the claim that Dorries informed the whip she was taking a month off do not address the time off, but refer back to the Prime Minister's claim that he was in the dark about Dorries appearing on I'm A Celebrity.
Here is a video of an appearance Nadine Dorries' daughters made on TV: Daybreak
At the start of the interview, it is claimed that Dorries asked for time off. "Obviously, she, she did ask for the month off. She did. She requested it from, um, the chief whip at the time, that she was going to go away for a month, it would be controversial. He said it's fine, you know, and that happened so that was OK."
HuffPo wrote that "She did not say if the whip's office was aware
that her 55-year-old
mother would be flying off to the Australian jungle to take part in the
reality TV show." So journalists are at least pointing out that the claim is only that the
time off was allowed, not that the appearance in I'm a Celebrity was. But they don't seem to have managed to clarify what has actually happened.
Then there's the whip's office quote that is being presented as a contradictory response to the comments from the Dorries camp: the chief whip "was neither asked nor did he agree to Nadine Dorries going off to
Australia for a month to take part in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of
Here". This is a specific denial that does not address the actual claim made by Dorries' daughter.
In spite of the articles about this from broadcasters, blogs and newspapers, we still don't know what Dorries asked for (if anything) or what the chief whip agreed to (if anything).
If I were interviewing Nadine Dorries or her daughters I think I would ask what permission was actually requested from the chief whip. And I would be interested to see the response of the chief whip's office to the question "what did Andrew Mitchell agree to?"
If we are charitable and assume that Cameron, Dorries and Mitchell are all telling the truth then it seems that what actually happened was that (a) Dorries asked for and received permission to take a month off, without saying what it was for and (b) Dorries was not given permission to appear on I'm A Celebrity, because she didn't ask for it. Presumably, Dorries was suspended not for taking a month off but for going off to Australia to take part in a TV show.
I'm a bit bemused to be in a situation where I'm left to guess what happened despite wide coverage of the situation, because each of the two sides insists on making specific claims and denials that do not address the point the other side is making, and no-one appears willing or able to call them on it.