HENRY DEEDES: Harness power of Nadine and rival's mutual hatred

Harness the power of Nadine Dorries and her rival’s mutual hatred… it’ll solve the energy crisis: HENRY DEEDES watches the Culture Secretary’s ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ mantra in action

Career politicians don’t like Nadine Dorries. Too forthright and in-yer-face. If you want to survive in the Westminster jungle you gotta speak-a-da-lingo, which means talking in long, verbless sentences, preferably without really saying very much at all.

But the Culture Secretary hails from the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ school of political thinking.

More often than not it gets her in trouble, particularly when she dips her toes in Twitter’s piranha-infested waters.

But while Government spin doctors scurry for the nearest medicine cabinet whenever she opens her mouth, we journalists tend to cry ‘Bingo!’ Yesterday, Dorries appeared in front of the digital, media, culture and sport committee – that preening bastion of right-on thinkers who don’t even bother to disguise their disgust at the Minister of State’s coltish ways.

If you want to survive in the Westminster jungle you gotta speak-a-da-lingo, which means talking in long, verbless sentences, preferably without really saying very much at all. But the Culture Secretary hails from the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ school of political thinking

Even when she walked in to the room, committee members gazed at her with gimlet-eyed suspicion, like jurors rubber-necking at a tattoo-splattered hoodlum taking their place in the dock.

Chief among the Dorries haters is jowly ex-BBC man John Nicolson (SNP Ochil) and the feeling is very much mutual. If you could somehow harness the power of loathing between him and Nadine you’d solve our energy crisis for the next half century.

The pair were at each other’s gullets from the off. Mr Nicolson was very worked up about the sale of Channel 4. He was outraged Dorries declined an interview with the broadcaster’s news programme the day she announced it was being privatised. From most politicians we would expect a long-winded excuse about time constraints.

Not from Nad. She stared down at the desk and shuffled her heels. ‘It was my right to do so,’ she muttered. Nicolson did a little double take. ‘Sorry, is your answer finished?’ he asked incredulously.

Dorries shrugged. ‘Which outlet I choose is my choice,’ she replied. Boverred? Nicolson was furious Channel 4 was being let go. It was profitable. It makes good television (hmm, up to a point).

He reckoned the real reason Dorries wanted rid was revenge for its critical coverage of the Government. ‘Laughable!’ said Dorries.

Yesterday, Dorries appeared in front of the digital, media, culture and sport committee – that preening bastion of right-on thinkers who don’t even bother to disguise their disgust at the Minister of State’s coltish ways

Accompanying Miss Dorries was her permanent secretary Sarah Healey, who always looks as though she’s just placed her hand on a red hot Aga.

Unlike her boss, Miss Healey very much does talk the jargonistic language of Whitehall. She spoke a lot about ‘disseminating opportunities’ in her department using ‘demystifying explainers’ – whatever that means. Once again, back to Channel 4 News.

Steve Brine (Con, Winchester) wondered what Dorries thought of its journalism. Again, the standard response would be something banal about its wonderful foreign coverage et cetera, et cetera. Nad defied expectations once more. ‘It’s edgy,’ she replied. For ‘edgy’ read: ‘Bed-wettingly liberal.’ She felt the broadcaster ‘didn’t do itself any favours’ when it came to impartiality.

It was hard to justify a news organisation ‘whose anchor went out to shout obscenities at Tories,’ she added – a reference to former presenter Jon Snow’s foul-mouthed rant about the Conservatives at Glastonbury five years ago.

Nicolson shot the committee’s chairman Julian Knight (Con, Solihull) a pleading look. ‘Make her stop, chair!’ Dorries was still hell bent on ditching the BBC licence fee.

A review was planned in the coming months to look at alternative funding models. ‘If anybody knows anybody to chair that review let me know,’ she announced breezily, as though enquiring after a good French polisher.

Nicolson thought he might apply. Which sounded a waste of a perfectly good postage stamp. Things slowed down a bit when the discussion turned toward the Government’s levelling up agenda. Yawn, Yawn.

Clive Efford (Lab, Eltham) pointed out two of the department’s recent high-profile appointments – Lord Grade as Ofcom chairman and Charity Commission chairman Orlando Fraser – were privileged white men. So much for levelling up, etc.

In case you didn’t notice, this lot are obsessed with identity politics and diversity targets.

If a candidate for a big job isn’t from a minority group, they howl with indignation.

Dorries sighed and pointed out these appointments were just two of about 240 she had made since arriving in the job last Autumn.

Oh by the way, the make-up of yesterday’s committee? Eight men and two women. And all but one of them were white. Hey ho!

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