Rishi Sunak faces another potentially damaging by-election after Nadine Dorries finally handed in her resignation 11 weeks after vowing to go.
The Tory former culture secretary is expected to leave her parliamentary seat on Tuesday after notifying the Chancellor of her intention to do so on Saturday.
She had come under mounting pressure – including from fellow Tory MPs – to act on her June 9 pledge to step down with “immediate effect” in protest at not getting a peerage in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.
Jeremy Hunt is expected to facilitate her exit from the House of Commons under the archaic process of being appointed to be Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern on the first working day after the bank holiday.
This will enable the writ to be moved when Parliament returns on September 4 for a by-election in Ms Dorries’ Mid Bedfordshire constituency.
The electoral test threatens to cause misery for the Prime Minister as the Conservatives battle to hang on to the seat amid a slump in the national opinion polls.
The Tories will be fearing a repeat of massive defeats in two by-elections before the summer recess, when Labour overturned a 20,000 Conservative majority in Selby and Ainsty and the Liberal Democrats flipped a 19,000 blue majority in Somerton and Frome.
Mr Sunak’s party did manage to hang on to Mr Johnson’s old Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, but with a much-reduced majority.
The Conservatives’ challenge in Mid Bedfordshire could be compounded by voters’ frustration over Ms Dorries’ absenteeism as she has not spoken in the Commons since June 2022 and last voted in April.
Mr Sunak said earlier this month that her constituents were not “being properly represented” as she remained in post despite promising to quit, although Ms Dorries insisted it was “nonsense” they have been ignored.
She said she was delaying her exit while she investigated why she was refused a seat in the Lords.
Ms Dorries won 60% of the vote at the 2019 general election to secure a 24,000 majority in Mid Bedfordshire, which the Conservative Party has held since 1931.
The former nurse launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister in her resignation letter, accused him of betraying Conservative principles and putting her personal safety at risk by whipping up “a public frenzy” against her.
“The clearly orchestrated and almost daily personal attacks demonstrates the pitifully low level your Government has descended to,” she said in the statement, published in The Mail on Sunday – for whose sister title the Daily Mail she writes a column.
The arch loyalist of former premier Mr Johnson also said the “country is run by a zombie Parliament” since Mr Sunak took office last year.
“You have no mandate from the people and the Government is adrift. You have squandered the goodwill of the nation, for what?”
Downing Street declined to comment.