Not all Tory MPs are Etonians. Some Tory MPs emerge differently. Often described erroneously as “working-class Tories” their differences to poshboys are minor. They might have had to do a proper job for a while and their accumulated though unearned wealth might be bereft of much inheritance, but all else is the same.
However, those small early differences linger as useful tools both for the party – to depict itself as a broader political church than it is – and for any non-Etonian MP who can call up her or his background as spurious justification for certain philosophies and policies.
Tory government uses the existence of such interlopers to add faux sincerity to fake proposals to bolster con-tricks and lies. For example, in late 2021 the Tories’ “levelling up” and “social mobility” programmes, both of which are equine excrement, include regular supportive comments from MPs whose upbringing was less Etonian than others.
Nadine Dorries, Tories’ new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), had an ordinary working-class upbringing and was a nurse for a few years. Her life became less ordinary having married a property-, business- and investment-speculator. She created a private child-care business and sold it to private healthcare company BUPA who also gave her a job. After her political career had begun she wrote several novels published as e-books based on stories told to her when she was a nurse; the novels were panned by critics. Toward the end of his life her husband had several disastrous financial episodes costing himself and many other people hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Dorries’ parliamentary career includes the usual Tory traits. Among her financial wrongdoings were expenses claims for a second home that was actually her main residence, an expense claim for a media and public affairs business, publicly-funded salaries for her daughter and for her sister for alleged work at her constituency office – her daughter lived almost 100 miles from the office, and a £10.000 claim for work compiling a report that neither she nor anyone in her office compiled.
In 2012 she appeared on a reality TV show while an MP thus removing her from her job for three weeks. She informed neither the Tory parliamentary party nor her local party that she was about to leave parliament to appear on a TV show. Tory party removed the whip. It was returned after Dorries threatened to join UKIP. She refused to state her salary for her TV work in the register of members’ interests, refused to answer a question on it from the parliamentary commissioner for standards, and claimed she didn’t need to reveal it because it was paid to her company not to her.
As an MP she tried repeatedly to reduce the time limit for abortions, she published a parliamentary bill that sought inclusion of promotion of abstinence in school sex education, but only for girls not boys, she said benefit claimants who use social media frequently should be reported to the DWP, and she went on a jolly to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, governed by a brutal dictator.
Dorries’ skillset as a communicator incudes the full Tory range from daft to abusive to dishonest to hateful.
A fervent supporter of Brexit, she complained that Theresa May’s proposed deal with EU “gives us no MEPs.”
On June 6th 2017 she produced some bizarre spelling and a very strange juxtaposition. “Some Conservative posters have been daubed with swass stickers – hard to believe any decent person would vote for Corbyn’s Jew hating mob.”
On 10th January 2014 she claimed there would be a “tidal wave of immigrants from Yugoslavia.” Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 2003.
Personal abuse and bigoted abuse are common characteristics of Dorries’ published statements and are a daily occurrence.
On 27th October 2017 she used an ablest slur. “Window lickin’ twitter trolls out in force today.” As a response to criticism of her language she claimed she was unaware of the meaning of the phrase, a claim that is not believable since she used the phrase exactly to mean someone with mental health issues.
In March 2020 she stated “Italy has stopped intubating patients over sixty years old. All ICU [Covid] patients on ventilators are below sixty and not one has been weaned back off to breathe independently.” Her remark was a blatant lie. Rightly, the Italian ambassador to UK described her assertion as “fake news.”
In May 2021 she said 180,000 jobs were created in Hartlepool due to Brexit. The town’s population is estimated to be about 95,000.
On 6th March 2015 she said her mother was “an English protestant.” On January 21st 2018 she said she had a “Jewish mother.”
No far-right extremist is too extreme to receive a supportive boost from Dorries or to be used as a source of information including Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and Guido Fawkes. She promoted a clip produced by a far-right activist of a doctored video of Keir Starmer speaking when he was Director Of Public Prosecutions.
Dorries reacts angrily when found out or when her disreputable behaviour is criticised. In response to reporting on her daughter’s fake job funded by the public Dorries targetted journalist Ben Glaze by publishing a threatening and libellous statement on 22nd November 2013: “Ben Glaze of the Sunday Mirror has an interest in my three daughters which borders on decidedly creepy/ stalker esque. Here is a message: Be seen within a mile of my daughters and I will nail your balls to the floor using your own front teeth. Do you get that?” Two days later she added “people who work for your paper are bottom-feeding scum.”
Racism is thrown around with confidence. On 10th May 2012, after an appearance on lightweight satirical TV quiz show Have I Got News For You? (HIGNFY) alongside USA comedian Reginald D. Hunter Dorries said “I have now left the HIGNFY after party. As I looked over my shoulder, Reginald D Hunter was talking to my daughter,” and added, in the style of a USA confederate, “where’s my shotgun, man?“
On 9th April 2013 her enjoyment of racist behaviour was evident when she asked “apparently I’m racist because I think Chuck Umunna looks like Chris Eubank?” By “Chuck” she meant “Chuka.” Former politician Umunna and former boxer Eubank look nothing like each other. She responded to criticism of her comment by claiming that a similarity between the two people was an “arrogant smirk.”
On 4th February 2019 she commented on a video clip of journalist Ash Sarkar appearing on BBC by calling her (Labour parliamentary candidate) Faiza Shaheen. She said later that she had only heard the video and claimed she confused their voices.
The quoted comments above are a tiny example of her daily output of petulance, lies, name-calling and provocation.
The normal Tory accompaniment to such behaviour are performative complaints when anyone retorts and Dorries is keen to accuse responders of abuse if the latter dare to disagree or criticise.
On 2nd December 2015, replying to a reasonable suggestion from someone that “shouldn’t you be doing more important things than spending your time on Twitter” with a reference to an important parliamentary vote on conflict in Syria, Dorries said “I am a woman with a brain and a phone in my hand whereas you, are just a woman with a phone.” (Her brain does not have room for the spelling of “swastika” or for understanding that a country not in the EU will not have MEPs.)
Dorries’ written communication strategy is not untypical for a Tory. However, her style altered after she was appointed DCMS Secretary, particularly online. The abrupt and distinct change in style, tone and topics, alongside a new reluctance to reply to messages, could almost indicate that she is no longer the author and her online communications are handled by a member of her DCMS team, or by a professional communications person.
For example, on 2nd November 2021 she said (correctly) “[cricketer] Azeem Rafiq’s treatment after the racism he faced was disgusting, and the investigation that followed only makes it even worse. The ECB [England And Wales Cricket Board] investigation must be swift and fully transparent. Racism must be confronted, and NEVER written off as just ‘banter’.” Her sensible words there are very different from themes in her earlier comments.
On 5th November 2021, promoting Tory’s Online Harms Bill (OHB), her statement of intent contradicted her earlier behaviour online. “Social media companies: Take note now. When harm is caused, we’re coming after it. The world is watching to see how we legislate to deal with online abuse, harm and disinformation. We will lead the way and we will not disappoint.”
The real purpose of OHB is to censor the public’s online communications under the guise of protecting the public from “harm” whilst simultaneously preventing social media platforms from removing far-right propaganda under the guise of protecting “free speech.”
OFCOM is supposed to be the regulator of social media but in section 33 of the OHB it states that “the Secretary of State [Dorries] may direct OFCOM to modify a code of practice [for social media platforms] submitted under section 32(1) where the Secretary of State believes that modifications are required to ensure that the code of practice reflects government policy.”
Alex Herne summed up the intent of OHB in a Guardian article on 12th May 2021. “The message of the bill is simple: take down exactly the content the government wants taken down, and no more. Guess wrong and you could face swingeing fines. Keep guessing wrong and your senior managers could even go to jail.”
Government control of supposedly “independent” NGOs (non-government organisations) is a theme of DCMS methodology. On the government website (gov.uk) on 12th September 2021 her immediate predecessor Oliver Dowden published a statement on recruitment of new Charity Commission chair wherein he said “some charities appear to have been hijacked by a vocal minority seeking to burnish their woke credentials. In so doing they not only distract charities from their core missions but also waste large amounts of time and money. I’m quite sure this is not what the millions of British people who donate to charities every year had intended their hard earned and thoughtfully donated cash to be spent on.”
Dowden’s comments were a clear political message to any candidates for the position of Charity Commission chair. When challenged by Good Law Project on the process for appointing the chair, a process passed on to Dorries, she refused to cooperate.
“On 7th October , we asked Nadine Dorries to hand over the list of questions that were put to interviewees, and to explain what ministerial involvement there had been in the hiring process. When she finally responded on 19th October she said, confusingly, that she had decided not to disclose the details we had asked for, in order to ‘retain the integrity’ of the interview process – a process which had already concluded.” Good Law Project 28th October 2021
Social media versus wealthy proprietors’ media
OHB includes protection of the ability of media outlets – newspapers, TV, radio and web-based news services – to publish whatever they want on social media platforms without threat of removal of content or closure of accounts.
The motivation for this protection is partly financial – the continuous huge tax-dodged profits of Murdoch, Barclay, Rothermere, etc. – and partly political. Most newspapers, TV and radio are conservative. There are several well-funded far-right pseudo-news networks whose social media posts have been subject to censorship by social media networks; Dorries wants to make such censorship illegal.
In an article for Manchester Evening News on 1st November 2021 Dorries said “journalism matters” and “our democracy relies on it. Good journalism exposes wrongdoing and injustice, it scrutinises people in power and it champions and celebrates good causes.” There is little connection between her analysis and the state of British journalism in newspapers, on radio and on TV.
On local newspapers she said “at the heart of our news industry are local newspapers, powered by the reported, copy editors, photographers and publishers working 24-7 to bring us trusted news and information. Their papers – like the Bedford Times And Citizen, in my own constituency – are the pillars of their communities.” Dorries omitted that Bedford Times And Citizen is owned by JPIMedia, a business that owns 172 newspapers in UK, and that JPIMedia is owned by National World plc, which is run by media magnate and former News Of the World editor David Montgomery.
After more praise for “journalism” – “I want to pay tribute to the people who keep those papers in print. They work incredibly hard – not always in the easiest of circumstances – to keep us informed and entertained.” – the purpose of her comments was revealed by “their [newspapers’] work has become even more important in the internet age. Every day we all go online and check our Facebook feeds, or scroll through Twitter or Instagram. Each time we do so, we can be exposed to worrying misinformation.”
Just in case readers of her words were unable to deduce her intent, she stated it unambiguously.
“We’ve introduced a trailblazing Online Safety Bill that will make us one of the first countries in the world to force tech companies to clean up their sites. But, crucially for journalists, that Bill will also prevent social media firms from arbitrarily taking down content from respected news organisations.”
When Dorries says “journalists” she means their wealthy tax-dodging employers’ financial interests.
Via OHB, real independent journalists will be censored while wealthy proprietors’ news outlets will be allowed to publish whatever lies and misdirection they like wherever they like. (Note that Julian Assange and Craig Murray are in jail but Alistair Heath, Oliver Letwin, Tom Newton-Dunn and Tom Harwood have careers feted by the Tories.)
An interesting aside to her support for “journalists” who “scrutinise people in power” is her reaction to comments made by broadcaster James O’Brien of LBC radio. Three years ago, in response to criticism of her by O’Brien, Dorries endorsed the following comments.
“I believe James O’Brien is a hate preacher, a UK hater and an apologist for Islamist atrocities. I also believe he should be sacked [by LBC].”
Juxtaposition of death of an MP and online abuse
Tory MP David Amess was killed at a constituency meeting on 15th October 2021. The only connection between his killing and online activity was that the meeting was advertised online.
On 25th October 2021 Dorries said “the heinous events [the killing of Amess] have highlighted two awful facts. The online arena remains the home of disgusting, often anonymous abuse, and a place where people are radicalised.” She offered no proof of connection between online activity and the killer’s motivation for killing him, and she admitted that “our efforts to introduce legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online might not have changed what happened last week.”
Dorries merely used his killing as an introduction to her precis of the intent of OHB.
“Online hate has poisoned public life. It’s often unbearable. And it has to end. We have the legislation to do it. OHB is one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation in the internet age.”
Different background, same Tory philosophy
Dorries knows who pays the bills of the Tory party. She knows who she works for, and that isn’t the British public. She knows that the role of DCMS is to censor political opposition, dampen knowledge and promote libertarian perspectives.
Related blog: Oliver Dowden, culture war and selective history