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Nadine Dorries’s bizarre Today interview

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In these difficult times, at least we can all count on Nadine Dorries to give us a good laugh. The former Culture Secretary was up early on the Today programme to mark publication day of her book on the supposed ‘plot’ to bring down Boris Johnson. Her thesis, she told a bemused Nick Robinson, was that five Tory leaders in quick succession have been brought down by a cabal of insiders known only as ‘The Movement.’ One of them, Dorries intoned sinisterly, was Dougie Smith, the longtime Tory operative, who, she says, ‘decides who becomes an MP, who becomes a minister, who becomes a Prime Minister and remains as Prime Minister and party leader.’

Hang on a second, remarked Robinson, this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Rather being driven out by a sinister coup, David Cameron lost the Brexit referendum. Boris Johnson meanwhile was removed after lying to the House of Commons and being ‘driven out of office by his own cabinet colleagues and his own Members of Parliament because they’d had enough.’ What did Dorries have to say to that? She chose, er, to ignore the point, by claiming that ‘I do admire Boris Johnson as a Prime Minister because he delivered’ and adding ‘now you will talk about the reason why he was driven out which I will not agree with and the the book will not agree with’. So the Tiverton, Wakefield and 2022 local elections simply did not happen then?

It was all the more curious then that Dorries sought to portray her work as a somewhat objective account of events rather than a partisan polemic. She insisted to Robinson that ‘this wasn’t my story, it was a story that was told to me by other people’, moments before insisting that ‘Michael Gove was never a Brexiteer’. That claim prompted an off-air, online put down by Gove’s ex-wife Sarah Vine, who tweeted that the idea ‘is simply not true. If anything, it was Boris Johnson who was in two minds about the whole thing. I was there, I remember. I understand that you have a narrative and that’s fine but there’s a limit’. That then prompted Dorries to claim: ‘I never knew him so it’s not my testimony, it’s IDS. If you read the book, I just compile the words and journalists copy of events and others. Very little is my opinion.’ Steerpike will leave his readers to judge that…

Other highlights of this morning’s radio clash included Robinson puffing his interviewee’s success in fiction writing by saying she had sold ‘two-and-a-half million books’, only to then be interrupted by Dorries snapping back ‘three, actually, Nick’. The interview closed with the following exchange:

NR: ‘See what lots of people are thinking: you’re just a bad loser in a sulk. I mean, you left the House of Commons because he didn’t get a peerage. Your mate lost his job as Prime Minister. You’re in a sulk and you’ve written a book because you hope it’ll sell well. What do you say to them?’ 

ND: ‘I, in direct response to that, I would say, I wish, when I started out writing this book a year ago, I thought I was writing about some of the untoward things and some of the machinations behind the scenes with Boris Johnson. You know, Nick, there was no gold wallpaper. It doesn’t exist. It was never quoted for. Does such a thing even exist? Boris Johnson never attended a single party. That’s one of the reasons why I began to write this book. That’s why I called it…’

NR: ‘Okay, we’ve got to leave it there because we’re running out of time. But I’m grateful for you. Funnily enough, I’ve had that wallpaper pointed out to me by someone inside 11 Downing Street. But Nadine Dorries, it’s called The Plot. You can buy it if you want.’

Or not, if you’re Michael Gove…

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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