• Jacob Powley

For the sake of decency, Dorries must go

Updated: May 15, 2020

As a Labour member, I was reluctant to write an article about moral superiority – for much of the past 5 years our party seemed to be more concerned with floating in a cloud of our own sanctimony rather than preparing a serious plan for government. In normal circumstances I’d have let it go, but today had to be an exception.

Twitter erupted this morning with the news that 3 Conservative MPs; Lucy Allan, Maria Caulfield, and Health Minister Nadine Dorries had shared a doctored clip of Keir Starmer, during his time as Director of Public Prosecutions. The video, taken from a 2013 interview, showed Starmer talking about previous policing errors with regards to the grooming gangs scandal and how he had introduced new guidelines to prevent a repeat of it– he described the failures as “the wrong approach”. However, the clip, originally shared by a now-deleted far-right account, only showed Starmer listing the previous regimes’ failures and edited it in such a way as to imply that he was championing these mistakes.

Then the real controversy began… Allan shared the clip, claiming it showed “a dismissive attitude towards child sex exploitation”, Caulfield dubbed it “the true face of the Labour leader” and Dorries simply called it “revealing.” All three MPs subsequently deleted the tweets, but none apologised, despite these misleading clips circulating thousands of times, and news this evening suggests that they received little more than a slap on the wrist from the Tory whips office. Meanwhile, Nazir Afzal, who was also heavily involved in bringing the grooming gangs to justice, was left to defend Mr Starmer’s record.

In an email to Conservative Party HQ, I pointed out that all 3 were in breach of the sixth of the party’s ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’, as specified on their website – it states that “holders of public office should be truthful” and that “ they should act with honesty and probity and in a manner which upholds the reputation and values of the Conservative Party” Whilst last year’s Fact Check UK debacle was dishonest, I’d like to the think that the “values” of the party do not include sharing false clips about abused children for political gain. If the party is serious about upholding its’ principles, they will instruct all 3 to apologise, and upload the full version of the original Keir Starmer interview, in order to combat such distasteful misinformation; as the saying goes, the lie gets halfway round the world, before the truth has got its’ trousers on. If not, all 3 should have the whip withdrawn.

Even if the culprits remain Conservative members, the least Mr Johnson must do is to remove Nadine Dorries from her front bench role. Her willingness to smear political opponents by sharing content implying they had failed to deal with child abuse, despite such actions likely to impact the targets’ mental wellbeing, makes her completely unsuitable for her job as Minister for Suicide Prevention.

The problem with the situation is that Johnson is in no position to sack any of the offenders for dishonesty, when his own relationship with the truth is so dubious – just yesterday he was accused of disregarding parliamentary procedure. Although I’ve always ideologically disagreed with The Conservative Party, I have viewed it as a respectable and truthful one. However, with the current leader in place, this view has faded and it will do so further if action is not taken against Dorries in particular. For all the Government’s claims to be bastions of democracy during last year’s election, Johnson’s Tories seem far less keen on transparency and accountability. The intentions behind these tweets were either nasty or incompetent. Neither is a good look and Johnson must be robust in his response to far-right propaganda – it’s what Winston Churchill would have done.

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