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A Conservative MP who once attacked comedians as “Left-wing snowflakes who are killing comedy” and took aim at the “hypocritical” BBC is the new Culture Secretary.
Boris Johnson moved Nadine Dorries from a junior position in the Department of Health and Social Care to a plum job in the Cabinet as Culture, Media and Sport Secretary.
Ms Dorries sparked a reaction when two days after Christmas in 2017 she posted a message on Twitter in which she took aim at large swathes of the Left. She retweeted a story highlighting how Lord Johnson of Marylebone, the higher education minister at the time, was concerned that students were drawing up lists of “trigger words” and demanding books containing them were stripped from university libraries.
She then wrote: “Left-wing snowflakes are killing comedy, tearing down historic statues, removing books from universities, dumbing down panto, removing Christ from Christmas and suppressing free speech. Sadly, it must be true, history does repeat itself. It will be music next.”
After being criticised by Left-wing commentators on the social media website, Ms Dorries urged respondents to speak to Christopher Biggins, “the king of panto, not me”.
She then posted a Telegraph article from the same day in which Biggins had attacked a theatre company for toning down jokes in a Christmas pantomime.
Biggins, who was at the time starring as Widow Twankey in Aladdin in Richmond, said: “The whole thing is ridiculous and is getting out of hand. In a way, I’m pleased I’m nearing the end of my pantomime career.
“I’m 69, I’ll be 70 next year, hopefully I’ll do one more pantomime and then I’ll retire from pantomime because it’s a joke, you soon won’t be able to do anything anywhere. Innuendo is fantastic and is wonderful and is joyous for the parents and the children.”
Creative sector sceptical of appointment
Last year, Ms Dorries turned her attention to the BBC, describing it as favouring “strident, very Left-wing, often hypocritical and frequently patronising views that turn people away”.
Her appointment to the Cabinet was greeted with some scepticism by Bectu, the union that represents tens of thousands of creative workers, which said: “Dorries should support our world-class institutions, instead of stoking divisive culture wars.”
Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, Bectu’s parent union, added: “The new Culture Secretary needs to focus more on supporting our cultural industries and less on stoking divisive culture wars.
“Instead of an agenda of undermining much loved institutions like the BBC, National Trust and Channel 4, the Government should be celebrating an industry in which the UK is the envy of the world and putting culture and our creative workforce at the centre of our post-Covid economy.”
Ms Dorries has forged a lucrative career as a novelist alongside her duties as MP for Mid Bedfordshire, submitting three books in advance of joining Mr Johnson’s government for the first time in July 2019.
She told The Telegraph in January 2020 that she liked to write while working as a minister “between 6.30am and 7.30am”, saying: “Even though I’m a minister, I still write 1,000 words every day, and I always will.”
Ms Dorries signed a “major” six-figure deal with publisher Head of Zeus for the worldwide rights to three new novels in 2017. That came after an earlier deal for three books signed in 2013.
One book continued her Angels series which follows the lives of the nurses of Lovely Lane, while two more were said to be “rags to riches” tales set in the Liverpool and Ireland of the Fifties.
Her books have been highly lucrative. Ms Dorries’ most recent declaration to Parliament shows that she received £126,600 in royalties and contractual payments from Head of Zeus between September 2020 and May 2021.
David Cameron, the former prime minister with whom she was repeatedly at odds, suspended the whip for several months over her decision to leave the country to appear on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here in 2012.
She defended her actions, saying MPs “should be” taking part in order to reach large audiences.
Ms Dorries, a former nurse and mother to three daughters, was born in 1957 in Liverpool and grew up on a council estate.
Before being elected to Parliament as MP for Mid Bedfordshire in 2005, she worked for three years as an adviser to Sir Oliver Letwin, the former shadow home secretary and shadow chancellor of the exchequer.
In 2009, when MPs’ expenses claims were revealed by The Telegraph, she admitted she got taxpayers to foot the bill for a lost £2,190 deposit on a rented flat.
On Wednesday, it emerged that Ms Dorries had admitted in 2010 that he had written a blog that was “70 per cent fiction” to reassure constituents about how hard she was working.
Ms Dorries made the admission to investigators during a sleaze investigation that cleared her of abusing the Commons expenses system, but found she had “misled” voters.
She had been accused of wrongly declaring her constituency property as her second home, even though it was thought she spent most of her time there.
The arrangement meant she was entitled to allowances worth £24,000 a year to fund the property.
In one blog, from May 15 2009, Ms Dorries informed readers her daughter was going to school there.
The MP told the commissioner: “My blog is 70 per cent fiction and 30 per cent fact. It is written as a tool to enable my constituents to know me better and to reassure them of my commitment to Mid Bedfordshire. I rely heavily on poetic licence and frequently replace one place name/event/fact with another.”
In 2013, Ms Dorries criticised same plans to legalise sex marriage, writing on Twitter: “If the gay marriage bill takes sex out of marriage could a sister marry a sister to avoid inheritance tax?”