New Culture Secretary attacks left-wing critics who opposed her appointment

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Nadine Dorries has attacked left-wing critics who opposed her appointment as Culture Secretary, saying they used it as a “means of political attack”.

The politician, who is also a bestselling author, said there was a “vocal number” of mostly male figures who had been hostile to her being given the role.

Ms Dorries replaced Oliver Dowden as Culture Secretary during the September reshuffle, inheriting major projects such as the Government consultation on the privatisation of Channel 4, the Culture Recovery Fund and resuscitating the industry post-Covid, as well as the ongoing debate over the future of the BBC.

Making her first appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee since she was appointed to the role, she said: “The arts sector is a pretty huge sector, I don’t think they all opposed my position, but there were certainly a vocal number, mostly, possibly wholly male, who quite used to and quite frequently comment and continue to do so.

Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, giving evidence to MPs sitting on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the Houses of Parliament in central London
Nadine Dorries giving evidence to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the Houses of Parliament (House of Commons/PA)

“Were they all from the left? Yes, I think there were a number of people who sadly used my appointment as a means of political attack and that did happen.

“Were these people quite obviously on the left? Yes.”

Asked by the committee what a “snowflake leftie” is, Ms Dorries joked: “Probably my kids.”

Asked what an “Islington leftie” is, she replied: “Again, one of my kids.”

Ms Dorries denied she uses the terms “quite a lot”, adding: “I think I might have used it once in a general term. I’ve certainly never used it as a Secretary of State, which is what I’m here as today.”

She was also questioned about the selection process to appoint a new chair of media watchdog Ofcom.

Ms Dorries told the committee the Government had not “altered” the job description to aid former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in the application process.

She said: “It was actually not altered as such but it was made to be more diverse and broader so that we could attract a range of broader and more diverse candidates.”

The Government previously decided to rerun the process after an initial round of interviews failed to find a new chair.

Ms Dorries said there had been no way to exclude candidates such as Mr Dacre from applying a second time.

FTSE 100 photos
Paul Dacre (Iain Crockart/DMGT/PA)

She said: “My predecessor in my post, before I arrived, decided to rerun the competition, quite rightly, for the head of Ofcom, and that process ran.

“There is no way we can exclude anyone from applying whether they were found unsuitable first time round or not.”

The permanent secretary for the culture department, Sarah Healey, who appeared beside Ms Dorries during the session, was criticised by Mr Dacre in a letter to The Times announcing his withdrawal from the race.

He referring to “senior civil servants working from home so they can spend more time exercising on their Peloton bikes and polishing their political correctness, safe in the knowledge that it is they, not elected politicians, who really run this country”.

Ms Dorries expressed her support Ms Healey, saying: “There are many male permanent secretaries who went for their job each morning, or for their cycle ride, or walked their dog. Nobody had anything to say about that.”

Addressing the future of Channel 4, Ms Dorries said it was the Government’s “responsibility to check the viability” of public service broadcasters.

The Jeremy Kyle Show
(Lewis Whyld/PA)

She said: “I know there is all this speculation about ‘the decision has been made’ and ‘they are going to privatise Channel 4’ but we are not. We are evaluating the future of Channel 4 and whether it is a sustainable model.

“A decision has not been taken. When we get to the point of possibly taking a decision, when we get to the point of considering all the evidence, then we can probably have this discussion.

“But at the moment I think it is right and proper we evaluate the future of a public service broadcaster.”

Elsewhere, she was challenged about past tweets to journalists including LBC presenter James O’Brien, which were described by the committee as “offensive”.

Ms Dorries responded by suggesting female politicians criticised on Twitter needed to be able to respond “assertively”.

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