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Boris Johnson has appointed Nadine Dorries as culture secretary, giving a first Cabinet post to an outspoken MP who has previously accused the BBC of being biased and claimed comedy is being killed by “leftwing snowflakes”.
An MP for 15 years before her first government role in 2020, as a junior health minister, Dorries was known for her robust views on other areas including abortion, and on equal marriage, which she opposed, saying it had lost the Conservatives millions of votes.
A longstanding supporter of Boris Johnson, she was less forgiving of the former leader David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne, once describing them as “arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk”.
News of the appointment brought surprise and even some concern from Tory MPs. One called the move a “colossal mistake”.
However, some officials who worked with her at the health department said that while they had misgivings when she was given the job, Dorries had proven diligent and easy to work with.
Dorries has made no secret of her views on some issues that will now come under her brief.
In a 2017 tweet which was widely recirculated after her new job was announced, Dorries said: “Leftwing 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.”
In 2013 she tweeted: “Apparently I’m racist because I think Chuck [Chuka] Umunna looks like Chris Eubank? What would I be if I said he looked like someone who was white??”
Dorries’ role in overseeing the BBC will also come under scrutiny given her regular criticism of the corporation as institutionally skewed to the left. In 2018 she tweeted that the BBC was “a biased leftwing organisation which is seriously failing in its political representation, from the top down”. In 2014 she wrote a blogpost about the licence fee, saying “a tax on the ownership of a television is a completely outdated concept”.
Although key parts of media policy are run directly from Downing Street, Dorris will oversee key decisions such as the appointment of a new Ofcom chair, the next licence fee settlement with the BBC and the appointments of individuals to many senior roles.
As a backbencher, Dorries seemed little interested in angling for a ministerial job. In 2012 she was suspended by the Tories for a period of months after appearing on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, something she did without informing her local party or Conservative whips.
One of her other sidelines is, however, more in keeping with her culture brief: Dorries is a highly successful author, declaring more than £120,000 in royalties and other payments over the past year in her register of interests.
She has written a string of historical books set either in Liverpool, where she grew up and trained a nurse, or the west coast of Ireland, where one of her grandmothers came from.