And so the ministerial reshuffle undertaken by alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson reached the junior ranks yesterday. Here was the opportunity for Bozo the Clown to reward the loyalty of pals on the back benches, but also an area where he should have trodden carefully: views that are fine for those outside the sphere of collective responsibility may not be so acceptable if they are summoned inside.
Sadly for Johnson, treading carefully was out of the question as he gifted a job at the Department of Health and Social Care to (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, who represents the electorate of Mid Bedfordshire, whether they want her or not. Ms Dorries’ inability to get her brain round the basics of Brexit has been the source of much mirth recently, but there is a rather less pleasant side to her too.
A complete Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street
The appointment was not taken too seriously by some pundits, with Ian Dunt’s reaction typical: “Nadine Dorries becomes a minister at the Department of Health. The clown car is complete”. One Tweeter told “I have a lot of Nadine Dorries best bits, my favourite to this day remains when she told all of Twitter she gives her junior staff her password on her work computer”. And then there was her prowess on the EU.
James O’Brien recalled “Nadine Dorries asked colleagues to explain what the Customs Union was because she was losing arguments about the wisdom of leaving it … They explained it to her in relatively simple terms … She still didn't understand and cited this as her chief reason for wanting to leave it”. This was not an isolated occurrence.
She memorably told followers “For those who favour a CU take a look at a breakdown from the [Sun] and see how much we pay in tariffs. The CU is a [sic] corrupt and rigged by Eurocrats and in no way benefits British people - we are being ripped off!” The article she cited later had to be pulled as it was substantially untrue.
And as Graham Lucas observed, last December “Nadine Dorries is at it again! Leaver thinks there will be a transition period with ‘no deal’”. If there is No Deal, there is no transition period. And if there is a transition period, it isn’t No Deal.
But it is on the twin subjects of racism and abortion that Nadine Dorries’ record is truly worrying. As the Guardian has reported, “Last year, journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown accused the MP for Mid Bedfordshire of racism after she told her to ‘appreciate just a little the country and the people you have chosen to live, work and benefit from all of your life’”.
It got worse: “Dorries has also been criticised for sharing a tweet by Tommy Robinson, and was accused of Islamophobia for suggesting the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was responsible for dealing with grooming gangs in Yorkshire”. Also, she infamously compared a Jewish (now former) MP to a Nazi concentration camp doctor, in a blatant exhibition of anti-Semitism. She has never withdrawn her comments, or apologised.
And then there is her stance on Abortion. In 2008, Sunny Hundal wrote of the campaign to reduce the upper time limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20, noting “it is backed by a whole list of organisations that want to ban abortion entirely … Nadine Dorries MP keeps claiming she is pro-choice and that she is not a Christian fundamentalist but then why is her campaign funded and co-run by them? Why are many of her allies groups that want to ban abortion entirely?” And what was Andrea Minichiello Williams’ role in the campaign?
Hundal also touched on Ms Dorries’ tendency to dishonesty. “There is plenty of good science around pointing out why the 24-week limit should remain, including by the British Medical Association. It is the anti-choice lobby, led by Nadine Dorries, that is trying to fudge the science. Dawn Primarolo MP said last night in parliament: ‘She has asserted many things as fact which are not.’” Prepare for rather more of that in the future.
The Dorries campaign to erode abortion rights did not stop back then, as the Guardian has noted: “more recently she attempted to amend laws and strip abortion providers of their role in counselling women. She has also proposed introducing compulsory sex education lessons at schools for teenage girls which espoused the benefits of abstinence”.
The old Silver Ring Thing rides again. Those views, of course, are not such a big problem when it is a back bencher who espouses them. But if that back bencher is then elevated to the rank of Government minister, they are a problem. Even moreso if the ministerial appointment is to the department handling health and social care.
Nadine Dorries may provide plenty of inadvertent laughter through her ignorance of the EU and its institutions. But her back catalogue of racism, and apparently regressive views on abortion rights, are no laughing matter. This is a genuinely worrying appointment.
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