As a writer, as someone who works within “culture” (OK, many of you would quite rightly debate that), I was as dismayed as anyone back in September when Nadine Dorries was appointed Culture Secretary.
It seemed like a sick joke, like an exercise in how to pick the very worst possible person for the job just to enrage “liberals” like me. Which it might well have been.
In case you’re unclear, Dorries is a hateful figure. She’s a diehard Boris Johnson fan who wanted to cut abortion time limits and strip abortion providers of a role in counselling women. She’s an ardent Brexiteer. And that’s the thing about working in the arts and culture – you meet so many people who share those views. Ooh, I can count them on one finger. So, to put someone like Dorries in charge of that sector. It’s almost like, well, it’s EXACTLY like, Johnson is simply trolling us.
The government minister responsible for arts and culture has made statements like: “Left-wing snowflakes are killing comedy.” (I must have missed the huge list of hilarious right-wing comedians.) She said the same lefties were also “dumbing down panto”. (Is this even possible? Again, I must have missed the long list of super-intelligent pantos.)
I’ve already mentioned Dorries’ best qualification for the job, the only qualification she needed in fact: she is a huge Johnson fan.
She was famously despised by David Cameron, who called her “Mad Nad”. She responded by describing Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne as “arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk”.
And while it’s hard to argue with that characterisation, it did make me wonder – how does she see her beloved Eton and Oxford-educated Johnson? As someone who dragged himself up from a council estate and bravely overcame many obstacles as he fought his way to the top?
But if there’s one thing Dorries hates more than anything, it’s cancel culture. The “woke” mob telling people what they can and cannot say. Dorries will have none of that. Not for one single second.
So it was a wee bit odd last week when Mad Nad (thanks David) found herself in the firing line again after she tweeted abuse at the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
Kuenssberg’s crime had been to report what Tory MPs were rumoured to be saying about Johnson’s recent car-crash performances. One MP had been quoted as saying that Johnson had described his own handling of the lobbying scandal as “like driving a car into a ditch on clear road”. He went on to tell Kuenssberg that Johnson had “looked weak and sounded weak” and that “his authority is evaporating”.
This would not stand for Dorries. She tweeted: “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.”
It seemed like she was very much telling a BBC employee what she could and couldn’t say. But that would be cancel culture, right? And Dorries can’t stand cancel culture.
It also looked very much like a government minister trying to exert control over journalists, like they do in communist countries, those places Dorries also can’t stand.
This seemed to slowly dawn on even someone as stupid as Dorries herself and, a few hours later, she quietly deleted the tweet.
But too late. It turns out that the annoying thing about the internet is that loads of people see the tweet before you can delete it. Who knew? So, the following day in Parliament, Labour MP Jo Stevens asked her: “Would she agree with me it is highly inappropriate for a government minister overseeing (BBC) licence negotiations to seek to influence editorial decisions?”
Dorries replied: “I did not rebuke Laura Kuenssberg, someone who is maybe the best in the business. Some members opposite seem to have difficulty understanding a composition of 240 characters. The tweet was completely misinterpreted, I was not rebuking Laura
Kuenssberg and never would.”
Yes, it turns out that she has learned well from her master Johnson: when confronted with hard evidence of you doing something like very publicly rebuking Laura Kuenssberg, simply come right out and say: “I did not rebuke Laura Kuenssberg.”
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It’s like the Tories are now trying to use the Jedi Mind Trick on the whole country. As we all know, the Jedi Mind Trick only works on the weak-minded. So that’ll be roughly half of the electorate then.
There is only one piece of comfort to take from all this: that single sentence “Johnson’s authority is evaporating”. His time will come.
One day, hopefully not too far away, Johnson will be finished. And, along with him, all the mediocrities he’s placed in positions far above their talents.
Mediocrities like Mad Nad.