When Auntie has to wheel out extinct volcanoes like Ma Soubry, you know they must be jittery: HENRY DEEDES on Nadine Dorries’ new role
Shortly after 9.30am yesterday, anyone walking along the South Bank may have been startled by a collective groan whistling up the Thames. Fret not, morning strollers.
Dorries’s appointment as ‘Minister for Fun’ was the big surprise of Wednesday’s reshuffle. After all, the former I’m A Celebrity… contestant is hardly renowned for her cultural insights.
Not for her the lush green lawns of Glyndebourne or Bloomsbury’s lavender-scented literary salons. True, she has penned a string of successful novels but her scribblings are unlikely to find their way under the Booker judges’ noses any time soon.
Nadine Dorries’s appointment as ‘Minister for Fun’ was the big surprise of Wednesday’s reshuffle. After all, the former I’m A Celebrity… contestant is hardly renowned for her cultural insights. She is pictured above at the Natural History Museum
So why has the Prime Minister bestowed upon her such a plum position? The clue perhaps lies in Dorries’s reputation as a political hip-shooter, unafraid to go into battle against the ‘woke’ politics which has permeated our arts sector.
Here is someone who in the past has hit out at ‘snowflakes’ and happily called out the BBC for its left-wing bias, a charge unlikely to dissipate any time soon following the corporation’s appointment this week of the Tory-baiting former editor of HuffPost UK, Jess Brammar, as executive news editor.
Over at Broadcasting House, Dorries’s arrival at the DCMS already seems to have rattled teacups. Anyone catch ex-Tory MP Anna Soubry ranting about her on Newsnight on Wednesday? When the Beeb’s wheeling out extinct volcanoes like Ma Soubry to plunge the knife you know they must be jittery.
What Dorries plans to do about it all we shall have to wait and see. We didn’t hear much from her in her first despatch box outing. As she’d only been in the job a matter of hours, she left much of the talking to her deputies.
But having been used to the mild-mannered Oliver Dowden, it was clear Labour’s frontbench team are braced for a much gnarlier opponent. They stared at her the way one might contemplate one of Damien Hirst’s pickled animals. Any welcoming remarks were distinctly frosty.
Chi Onwurah (Lab, Newcastle C) gave Nadine a patronising lecture on broadband rollout. Tall, elegant Chi, incidentally, once worked as telecoms engineer. Though possibly not the sort who clambered up telegraph polls with a tool belt dangling from her hips.
So why has the Prime Minister bestowed upon her such a plum position? The clue perhaps lies in Dorries’s reputation as a political hip-shooter, unafraid to go into battle against the ‘woke’ politics which has permeated our arts sector
Labour culture spokesman Jo Stevens suggested her opposite number change her computer log-in now she is a minister. This was a reference to Dorries once admitting she let her staff use her computer, though as a jibe it passed by most people. One big issue in Dorries’s inbox is the possible sale of Channel 4. John McDonnell (Lab, Stalingrad) was concerned about what this would mean for journalists. Ha! That’s a laugh.
Had he and his socialist goons won the last election, most of us hacks would be breaking rocks in a gulag. Not for the first time, Dorries palmed this question off on one of her team. McDonnell scowled.
The Left loathe Dorries because she maintains views they consider unpalatable. She is, for example, very down on abortion. Yet she’s never hidden her controversial opinions despite the cost to her career.
The SNP’s haughty cultural spokesman John Nicolson patronised his new opponent as best he could. He raised Dorries’s opposition to gay marriage. ‘Just as well there are no homosexuals in the arts sector,’ he deadpanned. To be fair, that was at least funny.
Toward the end of the session, David Davis entered the chamber. ‘Basher’ Davis and Nadine are kindred spirits. Both sup from the same political fountain, so to speak.
Mr Davis remained standing a while to observe the new minister speaking, his face a mixture of pride and wonderment. He could have been a father watching his daughter hammering out Chopsticks at a school recital as though it were a pitch-perfect rendition of Chopin.
Davis told the House his colleague’s appointment proved ‘you don’t need to be a boring conformist to get on in this world’. Indeed not. Nothing conformist about Dorries. Buckle up, people. La Reine Nadine could get lively.