Nadine Dorries: Ex-I’m A Celeb star and best-selling author takes culture brief

Tory MP Nadine Dorries who previously berated “left-wing snowflakes” for “killing comedy” and “dumbing down panto” has been appointed Culture Secretary in a move that could be perceived as an escalation of the “culture war”.

Ms Dorries was once best-known to millions for lying in a cabinet with bugs and cockroaches for company, but her short-lived stint on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here could barely have gone worse.

Her lacklustre performance in the aforementioned “Bug Burial” Bushtucker Trial failed to win any food for her campmates, and she subsequently became the first of the 2012 ITV show’s intake to be voted off by the watching public.

Nadine Dorries arrives at Downing Street, London (Victoria Jones/PA)
Nadine Dorries arrives in Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

Worse was to come when Tory party bosses suspended the whip over her decision to leave the country to appear on the reality programme, though she defended her actions, saying MPs “should be” taking part in order to reach large audiences.

The 64-year-old’s brief foray into reality television and her rather more successful side-hustle as a best-selling author will at least demonstrate some real experience within the entertainment business.

However, previous comments on the arts might alarm those within the industry, particularly her 2017 lament at what she perceived as the impact of “left-wing snowflakes” on culture.

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.”

And last year she turned her attention to the BBC, describing it as favouring “strident, very left wing, often hypocritical and frequently patronising views that turn people away”.

In 2012 she also spoke out about the BBC, suggesting that the Government should withhold the licence fee payout to the corporation at a then-upcoming round of negotiations, unless they did more to address alleged sexist discrimination against its women television and radio presenters.

She demanded a parliamentary committee be set up to look at why the BBC had so few female executives, as well as presenters, particularly in primetime slots.

The BBC have since taken steps and made advances in addressing gender representation on screen, as well as the gender pay gap.

The former nurse and mother to three daughters has also frequently been at odds with what she thought of as her party’s image, memorably referring to David Cameron and George Osborne as “arrogant posh boys”, while describing herself as “a normal mother who comes from a poor background and who didn’t go to a posh school”.

Ms Dorries was born in 1957 in Liverpool and grew up on a council estate, which she writes about on her official website, saying: “I am one of the luckiest people alive, to have grown up on a Liverpool council estate from the nineteen fifties to seventies.”

Dorries to write novel trilogy
A novel by Nadine Dorries called The Four Streets, which is one of three ‘set in 1950s Liverpool about Irish Catholic families struggling against poverty, hardship and abuse’ (Head of Zeus/PA)

She started her working life as a nurse before pursuing a career in business, opening a child daycare business before becoming a director at Bupa.

Her career as a writer has seen her author more than 10 books, among them The Four Streets Quartet novels, as well as The Angels series about the nurses of Lovely Lane and her collection also includes The Tarabeg Trilogy.

Before being elected to Parliament as MP for Mid Bedfordshire in 2005, she worked for three years as an adviser to the former shadow home secretary and shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin.

Ms Dorries was thrust into the limelight in 2012 when she was suspended from the Conservative Party for her appearance on I’m a Celebrity without informing the chief whip first.

However she was readmitted to the party in May 2013.

Ms Dorries has also been embroiled in a string of controversies throughout her tenure as an MP.

In 2009, when MPs’ expenses claims were revealed by the Daily Telegraph, she admitted she had got taxpayers to foot the bill for a lost £2,190 deposit on a rented flat.

And in 2010, she was rebuked by parliamentary standards commissioner John Lyon for misleading her constituents on her blog about how much time she spent in mid-Bedfordshire, admitting that it was “70% fiction”.

She takes over from Oliver Dowden as Culture Secretary, having previously served as health minister, with a focus on mental health and suicide prevention.

In her new role, among the major projects on her desk will be the Government consultation on the privatisation of Channel 4, the Culture Recovery Fund and resuscitating the industry post-Covid, as well as the ongoing debate over the future of the BBC.