Nadine Dorries: 11 of the former culture secretary’s gaffes and controversies

Nadine Dorries: 11 of the former culture secretary’s gaffes and controversies

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries makes her television debut on Friday evening when her new TalkTV series takes to the air for the first time boasting a blockbuster interview with none other than Boris Johnson.

Ms Dorries was loyal to Mr Johnson to the point of ridicule in her Cabinet days, which came to an end in September when the MP for Mid Bedfordshire tendered her resignation to then-new prime minister Liz Truss.

Since Ms Truss herself was unceremoniously removed from No 10 in October and replaced by Rishi Sunak, Ms Dorries has made it abundantly clear that she still believes Mr Johnson is the only person who can lead an unpopular and scandal-tarnished Conservative Party to victory at the next general election, with current polling suggesting it faces a wipeout.

The part-time romance novelist – who grew up on a council estate in Liverpool and trained as a nurse in Warrington before seeking elected office in 2005 and going national by appearing on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2012– endured a torrid two-year stint as culture secretary, making a series of gaffes and sparking numerous controversies.

Here are just her 11 most recent brushes with notoriety, for the sake of brevity, without even room for her promise that hosting the Commonwealth Games would, at last, “put Birmingham on the map”.

Accuses the BBC of running on nepotism after hiring her own daughters

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester in October 2021, Ms Dorries raised eyebrows by telling a Telegraph podcast that the BBC was staffed by people “whose mum and dad worked there”, a baseless claim that only dredged up accusations of hypocrisy given that she had employed two of her daughters as staff in her parliamentary office in 2013 at a cost of up to £80,000 to the taxpayer.

She has form in this area, having hit out at LBC talk radio host James O’Brien on Twitter as a “public school posh boy f*** wit”, despite sending her own girls to the very same school attended by her enemy – Ampleforth College, a fee-paying Catholic boarding school in North Yorkshire.

Reveals ignorance of Channel 4’s funding model

During a select committee appearance on 24 November 2021, the former secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, to give her her full title, wrongly claimed that Channel 4 was “in receipt of public money” therein entirely undermining her insistence that it should be privatised and, arguably, her credibility in the job.

Despite not understanding how the broadcaster is funded, she has since attacked it for its “edgy” news offerings, accused it of faking its reality TV shows with paid actors and called its supporters a “lefty lynch mob”.

Gives three car crash interviews in one evening

A redacted version of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal appeared on 31 January 2022, offering a damning assessment of the denizens of Downing Street for breaking their own Covid-19 rules to celebrate while the electorate stayed indoors.

In a heated session in the House of Commons in the aftermath of its publication, a flailing Mr Johnson fought desperately to defend himself, even throwing in a lurid and entirely false conspiracy theory about Sir Keir Starmer attempting to shield paedophile Jimmy Savile from justice during his tenure as director of public prosecutions, a smear for which he was subsequently pressured into apologising.

Afterwards, Ms Dorries attempted to defend the indefensible in a series of increasingly unhinged interviews from the lobby with Sky News, the BBC and Channel 4, insisting through gritted-teeth that Mr Johnson “always tells the truth” despite mounting evidence to the contrary, inspiring many, many memes.

Ridiculed for staring adoringly at the PM

Four days later, with the scandal still raging, Mr Johnson returned to be pilloried in the Commons once again, an occasion in which Ms Dorries again went viral, this time for beaming admiringly at her wounded Galahad from the frontbenches.

Social media began to wonder whether she really was in love with him, such was the intensity of her expression, a charge she was eventually forced to deny when she appeared as a guest on his sister Rachel’s LBC show on 20 June 2022.

The Charlie Stayt interview

If those earlier press interactions in defence of Mr Johnson were a disaster, another on BBC Breakfast on Saturday 5 February 2022 was just downright weird.

Apparently calling into the studio from a haunted attic, Ms Dorries bizarrely took umbrage when the veteran presenter innocuously asked her whether she had spoken to the under-fire PM within the last 24 hours.

“Why are you asking me that?” she snapped back, provoking bafflement on one side and a frosty silence on the other.

An interview with CNN five days later took to the Dorries brand across the Atlantic and found her declaring that she would be more offended by Mr Johnson kicking a dog than misleading Parliament.

Another bungled attempt to defend the ex-PM came after he was booed by royalists on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which she disputed had happened despite clear video evidence captured at the scene.

The cut-and-paste tweet

“As much as I disagree with @AngelaRayner on almost every political issue I respect her as a parliamentarian and deplore the misogyny directed at her anonymously today,” Boris Johnson tweeted on 24 April 2022.

“As much as I disagree with @AngelaRayner on almost every political issue I respect her as a parliamentarian and deplore the misogyny directed at her anonymously today,” Nadine Dorries tweeted the same day.

Football pundit Gary Neville was among the millions who noticed the obvious cut-and-paste job and rightly pronounced it “embarrassing”.

Raps on TikTok to promote the Online Safety Bill

This post on the viral video platform from 27 May 2022 was just red-hot cringe all day long and should not be viewed by the faint of heart.

The lyrical sidesteps into bloated legalese disclaimers about Ofcom’s power to issue fines, the lazily chosen GIFs and the self-conscious mic drop at the end are almost uproariously lame.

Accidentally slams government’s own pandemic planning

In one of the great self-owns of our time, Ms Dorries berated the former health secretary (and current chancellor) Jeremy Hunt for his disloyalty to the PM ahead of the crucial confidence vote into his leadership in a string of tweets on 6 June 2022 in which she labelled her own government’s preparation for tackling pandemics pre-Covid “wanting and inadequate”.

Mistakes rugby union for rugby league

Rather like the Channel 4 blunder, Ms Dorries raised serious questions about her suitability for the distinguished position she holds by going to St Helens on 30 June 2022 and glorying in the memory of Jonny Wilkinson’s last-minute World Cup-winning drop goal against Australia in 2003.

She could hardly have caused more offence locally had she swaggered into the room and declared Johnny Vegas a mediocre potter.

Accuses Sir Keir Starmer of being ‘boring’

With the government on its knees after the defenestration of Mr Johnson over the Chris Pincher affair and the Conservative leadership candidates at each other’s throats over who was the greater Brexiteer and Thatcherite, Ms Dorries was again at the centre of attention in the Commons for her boorish heckling of the opposition leader.

Just as, with hindsight, Britain might prefer the “chaos” with Ed Miliband that Mr Cameron warned us against in 2015 over the events of the last seven years, might it not be preferable to have a “boring” PM in No 10 for the foreseeable future if the current unceasing cosmic whirlpool of disaster is what “excitement” looks like?

Argues Liz Truss’s affordable earrings make her leadership material

With the Tory ugly parade to succeed Mr Johnson down to a final two, Ms Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Holmes and Watson of deluded Johnsonism, firmly backed Ms Truss and made clear they regard Mr Sunak as an arch-plotter against their idol.

Ahead of a key TV debate on 25 July 2022, she took to Twitter to cite the cost of the independently wealthy chancellor’s suit as a reason for his being unfit to govern while championing the foreign secretary’s £4.50 Claire’s Accessories earrings as the stuff of great leadership, an attack as laughably superficial as it was nakedly partisan.