Nadine Dorries: who is new Culture Secretary, what books has she written - and what has she said about the BBC

New Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has faced a number of controversies during her career, including statements about ‘left-wing snowflakes’ and voting against gay marriage

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has embarked on a dramatic reshuffling of his cabinet, with Michael Gove being granted Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Dominic Raab being demoted and Gavin Williamson getting sacked.

Nadine Dorries has now been appointed as the new Culture Secretary amid the reshuffle - this is what you need to know.

Who is Nadine Dorries?

Dorries is a British politician, a member of the Conservative party and became an MP for Mid Bedfordshire in 2005.

Prior to her election, she worked as a special adviser to Oliver Letwin, who was the shadow chancellor at the time.

She was born in Liverpool on 21 May 1957, and was raised as a Protestant. In 1975, she entered into the field of nursing as a trainee at Warrington General Hospital.

After training as a nurse, she became a medical representative for Ethicla, before then going on to spend 1983 and 1984 in Zambia as the head of a community school.

Dorries then went on to set up her own business, Company Kids Ltd, in 1987. It provided child day care services for working parents, and in 1998 was subsequently sold to BUPA, with Dorries being appointed director of the health provider in 1999.

She married Paul Dorries in 1984 before the two separated in 2007 and then subsequently divorced. The two have three daughters together.

In 2012, Dorries appeared on the ITV programme I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, however she was first to be voted out. She was suspended by her party for appearing on the show, but was then reinstated the following year.

What books has she written?

Dorries has written 19 books, which includes:

  • Four part series The Four Streets
  • The Tarabeg trilogy 
  • Six part series Meet the Angels of Lovely Lane
  • Standalone novel Ruby Flynn 
  • Three short stories, Run to Him, A Girl Called Eilinora and An Angel Sings 

Dorries says that she has always wanted to write, ever since her English teacher Mr Baker at Liverpool Secondary Modern inspired her.

Her novels have not always been met with praise, and reviews for the first instalment of her The Four Street series were largely negative - Christopher Howse from The Daily Telegraph called her novel The Four Streets “the worst novel [he has] read in 10 years”.

Sarah Ditum, from the New Statesman, also said: “Dorries is just not very good at making things up.

“Things in the novel appear to happen purely because they seem like a good idea at the time to the author. Characters potter in and then out again as soon as their service to the plot is done.”

What has she said about the BBC?

The 64-year-old has long been critical of the BBC, and in 2012, during a Commons debate on gender balance in broadcasting, urged ministers to “tell the BBC that until it gets its house in order, it will not be getting the dosh”.

She called for the creation of a parliamentary committee which would scrutinise the BBC’s decision making process.

In 2014, she backed a campaign to decriminalise the act of not paying for a TV licence, stating on her blog that state-run TV is “outdated”.

Dorries wrote: “Such a structure of payment and aggressive persecution would be more in keeping in a Soviet-style country.

“It would appear that there is no politician in any party brave enough to take on the BBC for fear of retribution and punishment via its political reporting.”

In a 2020 tweet, she wrote that the BBC favours “strident, very left wing, often hypocritical and frequently patronising views that turn people away”.

What has she said about gay marriage?

In 2012, Dorries said she was “pro gay marriage” before going on to vote against gay marriage in the UK twice in 2013.

That year, she tweeted: “If gay marriage bill takes sex out of marriage could a sister marry a sister to avoid inheritance tax?”

A few years later, in 2015, Dorries claimed that the gay community in her constituency had asked her to vote against their right to marry.

She said: “On gay rights issues, I voted the way the gay community in my constituency asked me to.”

Dorries has since once again seemingly offered her support for the LGBTQ+ community, tweeting in 2018 that her “biggest regret” was voting against gay marriage.

She wrote: “My biggest regret as MP is voting against gay married I read @nickygumbel blog in the middle of the night before the vote when agonising-wish I’d spoken to him. I will regret it all my life but truly hope that all same sex marriages live happily ever after #Pride #Love #LGBT”

What controversies has she been involved in?

Dorries has been involved in a number of controversies over the course of her political career.

In 2009, when MP’s expenses claims were published by the Daily Telegraph, Dorries admitted to having taxpayers pay the bill for a lost £2,190 deposit on a rented flat.

In 2010, during an investigation over the Commons expenses system, Dorries was found to have “misled” voters after admitting that she had been writing a blog that was “70% fiction”.

She said: “My blog is 70% fiction and 30% fact. It is written as a tool to enable my constituents to know me better and to reassure them of my commitment to Mid Bedfordshire.

“I rely heavily on poetic licence and frequently replace one place name/event/fact with another.”

In 2013 Dorries was made to repay £3,000.72 in travel expenses after the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) found that the claims were “wrongfully made and should not have been allowed”.

Dorries told Ipsa investigators that the claims for journeys made between Westminster and her Mid Bedfordshire constituency were actually made for family reasons and not related to her parliamentary duties.

That same year, she apologised to the Commons after failing to declare her fee for appearing on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. She was forced to register £82,000 profit that was made by her company following a ruling by the Parliamentary standards committee.

Also in 2013, Dorries defended herself against accusations of racism after she tweeted that a mixed-race MP looked like former professional boxer Chris Eubank.

She tweeted: “Apparently I’m racist because I think Chuck [sic] Umunna looks like Chris Eubank? What would I be if I said he looked like someone who was white??”

Dorries faced criticism once again in 2013 for employing two out of her three daughters as taxpayer funded staff in her office - at a total cost of £80,000.

In 2019 Dorries also confused Ash Sarkar and Faiza Shaheen, writing on Twitter: “I think the woman pedalling that lie may be a prospective candidate for Chingford. Let’s hope the residents see through that, for their sake.”

Shaheen acknowledged the incident online, tweeting: “When Tories think all brown women look the same.”

Sarkar also wrote: “Me and @faizashaheen are two different women, Nadine. You don’t see me out here mixing you up with any random white lady, so please pay me the same courtesy.”

She followed up with another: “The funny thing is, @NadineDorries and I have actually met in person before (on BBC Politics Live iir). Unless I’m getting her mixed up with Liz Truss or Hillary Clinton?”

Upon the news of Dorries’ promotion in the cabinet shuffle, Sakar tweeted: “Anyway congratulations to Penny Mordaunt - I mean, Nadine Dorries - to her promotion to Culture Minister.”

Dorries has often led attacks on “woke” politics, especially within arts and culture.

In 2017, she tweeted: “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.”

What is her new role?

Dorries had previously been appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care in May 2020.

On 15 September 2021 during Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, she was appointed as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, taking over from Oliver Dowden.

The Government explains that “the Secretary of State has overall responsibility for strategy and policy across the department and management of the UK transition for the department”.

Her responsibilities include:

  • Arts and Culture
  • Broadcasting
  • Creative industries
  • Creative Industries Council
  • Cultural property, heritage and the historic environment
  • Cultural Renewal Taskforce
  • Culture, sports and arts sector recovery from COVID-19
  • Gambling and racing
  • Libraries
  • Media ownership and mergers
  • Museums and galleries
  • The National Lottery
  • Sport
  • Telecommunications and online
  • Tourism

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