Cameron humiliates Dorries ahead of abortion debate

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron issued a humiliating retort to Nadine Dorries ahead of a debate on abortion today, in a further sign the Tory backbencher has irritated Downing Street.

Ms Dorries, who authored an amendment to the health and social care bill which would strip abortion providers of their duty to provide counselling, called the prime minister "gutless" over the weekend for backing down on her proposals following objections from Nick Clegg.

She continued that attack today, stressing that the Liberal Democrats were achieving more influence in government than they deserved.

"Does the prime minister think it's time we told the deputy prime minister who's the boss?" she asked, to deafening noise in the Commons chamber.

Mr Cameron struggled to issue his reply amongst the subsequent shouting, saying only: "I know the honourable lady is extremely frustrated…" before giving up.

That line prompted a huge wave of laughter and jeering, leading Mr Cameron to say: "Maybe I should start that again."

As the laughter continued, he admitted defeat, saying: "I'm going to give up on that one."

Most commentators and MPs took the "frustration" line as an innuendo, although a Downing Street spokesman was keen to play down that interpretation after the session, saying the prime minister had not meant any offence.

Ms Dorries cut an uncomfortable and unhappy figure after the exchange, standing up despite having already asked her question and staring at her lap.

Speaking during her amendment a few minutes after PMQs, she said she had been "threatened with being throttled, car bombed, burned alive," over her views on abortion.

Mr Cameron has already been criticised in some quarters for his alleged disparaging tone while talking to some female MPs.

An incident earlier this year in which he told shadow chief secretary Angela Eagle to "calm down dear" prompted outrage among some women's groups.