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Nadine Dorries: a minister for the culture wars?

The politician best known for eating ostrich anus on I’m a Celebrity in 2012 has been made Minister for Culture in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle

“It was so loud”, you may well have heard it at home, said Harry de Quetteville in The Daily Telegraph: the sharp intake of breath among Tories at Westminster when it was announced that Nadine Dorries had been made Minister for Culture in Boris Johnson’s reshuffle. “Culture Secretary?” The politician best known for eating ostrich anus on I’m a Celebrity in 2012 – an appearance she made without permission from her party, and for which she was suspended? And who has, more recently, penned a string of lowbrow (but bestselling) historical novels? How had the woman some MPs call “Mad Nad” done it, her rivals wanted to know. Well, her loyalty was part of the equation. A former nurse and single mother who used to live on a council estate in Liverpool, Dorries loathed the “arrogant posh boys” David Cameron and George Osborne. Yet she adores Johnson – so much so that she cried when he withdrew from the leadership race in 2016. 

But her appointment was not only a reward for loyalty, said Ayesha Hazarika in The i Paper. Dorries is exactly the kind of person Johnson wants in his Cabinet: a working-class woman who sings from his unashamedly populist, patriotic and Brexity hymn sheet. Left-wingers can disagree with her politics, but they should think twice before joining in the snobbish denunciations of Dorries: she probably has more in common with the former Labour voters who went blue in the last election “than many on the recent shadow front bench”. 

In Government, she will play a useful role, said Sean O’Grady in The Independent. A “sworn enemy of the BBC”, she can be tasked with terrorising the corporation into submission. The PM, meanwhile, can remain “relatively aloof” from the scrap, and so maintain usefully cordial relations with political editor Laura Kuenssberg. Judging by her history on Twitter, Dorries can also be expected to wage “war on woke” wherever she finds it, said Alexander Larman in The Critic. I sympathise with that agenda up to a point, but I hope Dorries does not spend all her time shouting at “snowflakes” for removing statues and “dumbing down panto”, and instead addresses more serious issues, such as the dominance of left-wing “shibboleths” in the subsidised arts. 

I fear for the arts, said Sarah Ditum on UnHerd. They are a billion-pound industry, struggling to recover from the pandemic. Yet they now have a minister whose parliamentary career “does not suggest she will apply herself to her brief with great diligence or rigour” – but who has a clear ability to turn any minor dispute into a “flame war”. It is that, and not her lack of interest in opera, that is the trouble with Dorries.

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