Dorries’s gaffe hints one of two things - GulfToday

Dorries’s gaffe hints one of two things

Sean O'Grady


Associate Editor of the Independent.


Nadine Dorries. File

As if to prove that she’s entirely unsuited, as secretary of state for culture, to be overseeing the BBC and the wider media landscape, Nadine Dorries sent an extraordinary tweet to the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, last night.

It wasn’t the most out-of-control rant she’s capable of (more follows) but it was, shall we say, inappropriate for someone who supposedly hates “cancel culture”.

All Kuenssberg did was to report, as usual, what Tory MPs were saying to her about the prime minister’s current performance levels.

One member of the Conservative parliamentary party, who was at the meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee when Johnson described his handling of the lobbying scandal as like driving a car into a ditch, told Kuenssberg he thought Johnson “looked weak and sounded weak” and that his “authority is evaporating”.

An understatement, if anything, but it was all just too much for Nadine who quote-tweeted Kuenssberg as follows: “Laura, I very much like and respect you, but we both know, that text is ridiculous. Although nowhere near as ridiculous as the person — obviously totally desperate for your attention — who sent it.”

Now, there are a few ways of interpreting this, now deleted, tweet. One is that Dorries thought she was sending a private, helpful message to Kuenssberg, in the forlorn hope that Kuenssberg would take no further notice of the attention seeker (ie the backbencher, not Dorries herself).

If so, it suggests that Dorries is quite interested in micromanaging the BBC’s political output (and let’s not forget that she is about to appoint Paul Dacre, ex editor-in-chief of the Mail titles, as chair of Ofcom). He too is a man not noted for restraint. So not ideal, but it also suggests the culture secretary doesn’t know how Twitter works.

Alternatively, she was issuing a mild public reprimand to Kuenssberg, which has the merit of transparency but not much else to be said for it, or Dorries’ political judgement.

Of course she was trying to be helpful to Boris Johnson, as he found himself mired in sleaze, but, like an idiot in an abattoir, she only made the unpleasantness worse. She has an almost maternal feeling for Johnson, rare even among his shrinking fan base.

When he pulled out of the Tory leadership race in 2016 (after Michael Gove pointed out that he wasn’t up to the job of PM), she was there in the front row, shedding a tear at the dramatic withdrawal. When the end comes for Johnson, as it will, she will be there for him at the last stand, bungling his last desperate attempt at survival.

At the moment, though, apparently trying to influence the BBC political editor, albeit in an ineffective and passive aggressive sort of way, doesn’t add to the government’s shaky reputation for integrity.More regrettably still for Ms Dorries, it prompts journalists to revisit some of the scrapes “Mad Nad” (as she was known to David Cameron) has found herself in over the years.

Like the time she warned, on Twitter, a Sunday Mirror journalist that she’d nail his testicles to the floor with his own front teeth if he asked any more impertinent questions about her employing her daughter as a secretary, paid for from public funds.

Then there was that unhappy episode when she took herself off to the jungle of Australia for I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. She’d neglected to tell her constituents or even the Tory whips and, on her return, had the whip withdrawn for going on the show — you might call it a temporary second job — rather than representing her constituency in parliament.

She also forgot to declare the fee of £40,000 on time. If you were being extra rude you’d also wonder aloud how much time Dorries spent writing her 15 best-selling novels, published from 2014 onwards, for total fees of £500,000.

Or remember the words of the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards who was looking into claims for expenses on her second home.

This was particularly bizarre because she was cleared of wrongdoing, but only because what she had been saying on her blog about spending time in her Mid Bedfordshire constituency had been, in her confessional words, “70 per cent fiction”.

Seeing as this stuff about serving constituents is all so topical again, it’s worth recalling the exact words of the independent report, back in 2010: “Comments made by Ms Dorries on her blog suggested that she spent the majority of her weekends in the constituency, whilst she had told the commissioner that nearly all weekends were spent in her main home.

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