From the jungle of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! to the cabinet of the UK government, via the shelves of Waterstones, Nadine Dorries’ rise to the top tiers of Westminster has been varied and not without controversy. Here are some of her most notable moments.
Dorries’ appointment as culture secretary has fuelled speculation that the government intends to double down on so-called “culture war” issues. In 2017, in a tweet that was widely shared, Dorries railed against “leftwing snowflakes”.
She said they were “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.”
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.
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) December 27, 2017
Dorries presents herself as a social conservative, a position seen in her previous comments on gay rights and her position against gay marriage – which she later said was her “biggest regret” as an MP. Writing for ConservativeHome in 2012, she said: “Gay marriage is a policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin.
“I have yet to meet a gay couple in my constituency or beyond who support it; in fact, the reaction has been quite the opposite. Great Britain and its gay couples don’t live on Canal Street in Manchester, shop in The Lanes in Brighton or socialise at Gaydar in London. Gay couples are no different from heterosexual couples and yet this policy transforms them into political agitators who have set themselves against the church and community.”
Free school meals
Dorries has shown some contrition on government failures. Earlier this year, she admitted that the paltry free school meal boxes offered to families at the time did not provide enough food for five days’ worth of school lunches.
Speaking on talkRadio, she said: “I spent most of my school life on free school meals. I feel this issue quite strongly. I was incredibly shocked when I saw that package. I know that the government’s response has been swift and thorough and that those packages are being looked at right now. Measures are being put in place to deal with the problem.
“I know that’s happening right now. Everybody was shocked to see [it]. What we want is food to be supplied to mothers or fathers to be able to provide five days of school lunches for their children. That was not available in that box. We admit that, we know that, we are putting very robust measures in place to ensure that the providers sort that situation out.”
Dorries’ record on race is also marred by controversy. In 2013, she complained that she had been called racist after saying that the then Labour MP Chuka Umunna looked like the ex-boxer Chris Eubank.
Apparently I'm racist because I think Chuck Umunna looks like Chris Eubank ?What would I be if I said he looked like someone who was white??
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) April 9, 2013
In August 2018, she argued that Boris Johnson “didn’t go far enough” in an article in which he likened Muslim women who wear burqas to “postboxes” and “bankrobbers”.
The government should. No woman in a liberal, progressive society should be forced to cover up her beauty or her bruises. Boris didn’t go far enough. France, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, they aren’t on their knees in apology. Look to the bravery of Iranian women and learn. https://t.co/iD0gSP1j9B
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) August 7, 2018
In addition, Dorries has shared several tweets that critics said promoted Islamophobia, including one from the English Defence League founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson.
Dorries has made interesting remarks in the past about her colleagues in the Conservative party. Speaking to BBC Two’s Daily Politics in 2012, Dorries said: “Unfortunately, I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk, but they are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others – and that is their real crime.”
However, she has been a longtime supporter of Boris Johnson, which may go some way to explaining her appointment to senior government roles. Political commentators have suggested Johnson prizes loyalty above other characteristics.
In an interview with the Sun in 2012, Dorries said she “longs for the day Boris Johnson is prime minister” and she went on to say Johnson was her “hero” and would be more “statesmanlike” than Cameron if he became PM.
“He wouldn’t tamper with people’s views, unlike what happens now in Cameron’s Westminster, and he would be more statesmanlike,” she said.
Abortion time limits
Prior to her appointment as culture secretary, Dorries served as a junior health minister in Johnson’s government. Her appointment as health minister brought previous campaign work to cut abortion time limits back into focus.
She has repeatedly called for the time limit for abortions to be cut from 24 weeks to 20 and attempted to amend the law in 2011 to strip abortion providers of their role in counselling women.
Strep B infection
Dorries has pushed for improved methods of testing for group B streptococcus (GBS), a bacterium that can be passed on by mother to baby during childbirth, sometimes with fatal consequences for the baby. About 800 babies a year develop a GBS infection in the UK and about 50 die, the majority within the first 24 hours of life.
In 2019, as a health minister, Dorries announced that a large-scale National Institute for Health Research-funded clinical trial on testing for GBS had received ethical approval in England. She wrote to all hospital trust chief executives asking them to ensure that when a woman is swabbed for GBS it should be done with a gold-standard test.
“This a challenge that this government will not shy away from, because we don’t just want the UK to be one of the safest countries in the world to give birth, we want it to be the safest,” she wrote in the Daily Mail.
As health minister, Dorries – who trained as a nurse herself – defended the government’s offer of a 1% pay rise for nurses. “Everybody in an ideal world would love to see nurses paid far more, in an ideal world, but we are coming out of a pandemic where we have seen huge borrowing and costs to the government,” she said.
“I think it is important to note that the priority of the government has been about protecting people’s livelihoods, about continuing the furlough scheme, about fighting the pandemic, and we’ve put huge effort into that. We do not want nurses to go unrecognised – or doctors – and no other public sector employee is receiving a pay rise, there has been a pay freeze. But the 1% offer is the most we think we can afford which we have put forward to the pay review body.”
Dorries has publicly addressed her experience of child abuse and called for increased efforts to protect children. She revealed she was abused by the Rev William Cameron, an Anglican vicar and family friend, when she was nine.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday in 2015, she said: “Those of my generation who were subjected to abuse now have a responsibility to ensure that child abuse is never rife again, that children are safe and protected.”