Ms Dorries is no stranger to saying things that are blatantly untrue, and this should be borne in mind when she begins her assault on the BBC. Let’s consider her contribution to the Conservative Home website from July 2006, where she reports back on the creation of a single Liverpool-wide Conservative Association. Spot the whoppers.
“Chris Grayling, Shadow Minister for Transport, and I faced the assembled members of five Liverpool Conservative associations … You simply couldn’t argue with the facts. Liverpool doesn’t have a single Conservative councillor or MP. Yet in the room with us, observing through silent eyes, hung a portrait of the assembled Liverpool City Council of 1955, every single one a Conservative”. Liverpool City Council 1955, right?
After that year’s local elections, the Tories had 53 Councillors. But Labour had 65. Moreover, “At the meeting of the City Council on 23 May 1955 the terms of office of twenty of the forty Aldermen expired and the Councillors elected twenty Aldermen to fill the vacant positions for a term of six years. Fifteen Conservative, one Independent, and two Liberal Aldermen were replaced by eighteen Labour Aldermen, allowing Labour to take control of the council for the first time”. 1955 was the first time Labour took control in Liverpool.
It’s all on record. So why lie about it? And she wasn’t finished. “There were eight Conservative Liverpool MPs at that time”. No there weren’t: Liverpool (until 1974) had nine MPs, three of whom represented Labour. For the six Tories, sectarianism, rather than affection for The Blue Team, was more of an influence. By 1964, that influence had waned to the extent that four of the six Tories lost their seats. To Labour.
So it should come as no surprise that Ms Dorries’ latest target, the BBC, is being characterised by her in terms that do not stand up to the most basic fact check. Take her assertion that the Corporation must take action over impartiality: since 2017, when the Beeb fell under Ofcom’s regulatory hand, there have been four annual reports where any breaches of the Broadcasting code on impartiality could have been raised.
Sadly for Ms Dorries, as former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has noted, Ofcom has found a total of zero breaches. He concluded “I have too much respect for [Nadine Dorries] to think she is making up her claims about such flagrant breaches of the code that the very licence fee itself is imperilled. So I hope she can produce some hard evidence”.
Meanwhile, Steven Barnett of the University of Westminster mused “I gather [Nadine Dorries] also claimed that 50% of BBC staff went to private school. Like her other prejudices about the BBC, this is entirely wrong. Actual figure is 11.5% of all staff, 17.5% of leadership (p290 of annual report). I would expect a [DCMS] SoS to get this right”.
From there we come to the merely unfortunate part of Ms Dorries’ oeuvre: Peter Walker of the Guardian observed that she “Says critics of her appointment as culture secretary were mainly people who benefited from ‘nepotism’, and that the BBC's ‘group think’ almost totally excludes working class and northern people”. Nepotism. So says a politician who has been criticised for employing two of her daughters at taxpayers’ expense.
Meanwhile, the Tory cabinet is two-thirds privately educated, the BBC’s leading news anchor (Huw Edwards) was state-educated and his parents weren’t employed by the Corporation, and its leading sports presenter (Gary Lineker) began his working life helping his late Dad Barry - who ran a fruit and veg stall on Leicester Market.
That’s the problem with telling whoppers to suit your agenda. As Gordon Brown warned Damian McBride - someone with whom Ms Dorries has clashed in the past - “Don’t. It’s the lie that gets you”. But he’s a Rotten Leftie™, so she wouldn’t listen to him.
Credibility. It’s not about education or groupthink - it’s about trying to tell the truth.
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