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She was voted off I’m a Celebrity in 2012 after her performance failed to impress, but now Nadine Dorries has a captive audience, even if they’re already readying their rotten tomatoes. It’s safe to say that Dorries, who was yesterday elevated to Culture Secretary, is not a widely popular choice among the industries she now represents.
There are reasons for that. A tweet from 2017 succinctly summed up her attitude: “Left-wing 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.” Many Tories agree with her. Many under her remit have a far more nuanced approach. Expect some noisy debates.
The MP for mid-Bedfordshire, is, of course, a bestselling novelist, writing books that, though critics are sniffy, are hoovered up in their thousands by the mainstream-reading public (many more “literary” authors would kill for her numbers). For Johnson, her populist Liverpool roots and down to earth approach speaks to the Red Wall. He has inserted a very loyal ally into a very visible post.
Dorries is likely to be more vocal than her predecessor Oliver Dowden — she at least has the instinct for performance — and will publicly pursue a levelling-up agenda, something that, in fact, many in the arts have been pushing along successfully for years with a huge and much championed growth outside of the M25.
I’d like to address a plea to her in that spirit: let’s take a rain check on the so-called culture wars and focus on trying to help the billion-pound industries she’s in charge of, essential to Britain’s prosperity, fashion also being one of them, to crawl out of the hole the pandemic has dropped them in.
Let’s leave 280-character bursts of vitriol to those on the sidelines and lead by example; hold out a hand, open up conversation. That’s what culture needs right now. That’s what we all need.