Nadine Dorries hung on to her Mid Bedfordshire seat as MP earlier this year while demanding an inquiry into why she had not been bumped up into the House of Lords as promised by Boris Johnson. She was eventually shamed into resigning the seat as she had promised. She was Johnson’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and, before that, god help us, Minister of State for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health during the pandemic. Since her resignation as MP on 29 August she has been beavering away at what she calls her ‘political’ book, one to follow a series of bodice rippers. This one does finally get to the sex by the end.
Boris and Nads
The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson takes us into a weird parallel universe, a bit like in the Star Trek episode where Seven of Nine appears as the evil Three of Eight, and other key characters undergo incredible character transformations. Except in this one, Boris Johnson appears to be the nicest, most lovable person you could ever meet, dedicated to his job, considerate to friends and enemies, and puts his family before any thoughts of bitterness towards those who betrayed him. “Getting Boris to say anything mean about anyone is almost impossible”.
Wise to his faults, Dorries loves him, dear reader. Boris “was obsessed with delivering on his manifesto promises; he’s a bit old-fashioned like that. He thinks if the people vote for something, your job is to deliver it”, and “he has loved well and not always wisely, and it is true, but he’s not a groper. He’s not that man, the underhand, bullying type; that’s just not him.” He has been badly misjudged; “Boris’s huge achievements came about in the masked face of adversity”.
As for his behaviour during the pandemic, squeaky clean: “Boris was fined for people walking into his office while he was sitting at his desk. He never went to a single party.” So unfair. Boris takes good care of her, and she tells us that she was “impressed with how he had laid the tray with delicate china and had apologised for there being no strainer.” “Boris is a straightforward guy who is doing his best for his family and the country; “Boris doesn’t do game-playing. He doesn’t really do parties. He really isn’t very good at small talk. He detests gossip. He prefers to read a book.” She is so close to him that she says, “I could almost see his brain working.” He calls her “Nads”. Nice.
Dorries the detective
Nads watches what is happening in and around the Cabinet, and she puts two and two and lots of other imaginary numbers together to try and make sense of what they are all up to: “I observed the goings-on surreptitiously from beneath my lashes”. She tells us from the outset that this is a “story that has never been told” and, later, “it is a tale you are entirely unaware of. Why is that?”, and so on.
Dorries carries the reader along using two main narrative devices. One is by telling us exactly what she was eating and drinking as each more astounding revelation about the plot against Boris is revealed: “I swallowed the nibbles I was munching as, wide-eyed, I listened”. There are moments when it just gets too exciting: “My fingers were greasy from the butter in the shortbread and I was struggling to hold a pencil.” At another revelation, she writes, “I put down my fork and wondered, Do I need a glass of wine?”
The other narrative device she uses is a plot twist, where she tells how astonished she is to find out who is pulling the strings. First, for example (and apologies for the plot spoiler), it appears that Michael Gove, one of brave Nadine’s arch-enemies, is the mastermind—”all”roads lead to”Gove”—with Dominic Cummings as his tool, but then, no, it turns out that it is Dom who has the whip hand. Poor Michael is bewitched by the public-school boys he follows around like a lap dog (and then bites), and he does Dom’s bidding.
But then, if you have stayed with the book, you will discover that there is another more powerful master of the “dark arts”, someone who is even the most powerful and who well-known politicians are “shit scared of”. Who could it be? Perhaps all will be revealed in Volume Two, or maybe not, because, as Dorries tells us, the “legals” will stop her. “I turned to face Boris on the sofa and shared with him some of the information I had been given. Much of what I know will never see the light of day due to the “legals.”.
The plot thickens
So, who is the most powerful master of the dark arts, perhaps even behind the legals as well as all of the ministers? Probably one of the first informants that Dorries consults was having a laugh when they suggested that she use code names to refer to people in her notes and, if they really don’t want to be named, in the book. Why not use code names from James Bond books? What could possibly go wrong? It would surely make the whole book much more plausible. So, early on, before the tables are turned and we find out who is in charge, Gove is “Goldfinger” and Cummings is” Oddjob”.
The real villain, however, is “Dr. No”. You need to know two things about Dr. No. One is that he is very, very evil, and this is the kind of stuff that has made it from the book into the tabloid press: “Dr. No was said to have tried to set fire to a house when people were sleeping in their beds. There was a whole family in the house at the time, including a child. They say when a young woman spurned his advances, he chopped up her little brother’s pet rabbit into four and pinned it to the front door to greet the child when he arrived home from school.”
The other thing you need to know about Dr. No is that no one seems to know exactly who he is; “his profile is even more enigmatic. There is simply no trace of him that my expert could find, not even a photograph or references to his activities.” Another informant comments, “There is absolutely nothing about Dr No either. His entire footprint, wiped clean.’”, at which Nads tells us that “I shook my head. It was a mystery”.
She tells us again later “No one knew who Dr. No was”, and reminds us how dangerous he is: “Dr. No loves violence too. If ever there is a demonstration in Downing Street and he’s in there, he will slip out of the back door into the street, and he seeks out the violent clashes.” He is at the centre of things. “He’s spent time with Rishi and Akshata. He has facilitated Rishi’s journey all the way into No. 10”, and so, “if you aren’t part of their network, you will not survive.” Curiouser and curiouser, Nads cries.
Actually, as Nads travels around getting the goss on what is happening backstage in Westminster, we flip from one parallel universe to another, and unnamed civil servants and MPs rehearse their own conspiratorial versions of who was out to get Boris and who would benefit. There is a question here as to how all of these fantasies about who is in and who is out, who is the top dog, and who is being played relate to reality. For example, one of the first MPs Dorries consults is Iain Duncan Smith, IDS, who headed the Tory Party from 2001 to 2003. This is where we get the first hint of the dark forces that were behind the removal of IDS, but, wait a moment, surely one of the main organisers of the campaign to remove IDS was … Boris Johnson? At that early point, the credibility of the book disintegrates.
This is, in some ways, a delirious and unintentionally funny journey around the tall tales of the great and the good. It is unintentionally funny because Nads laps it up and puzzles about how it all fits together. It doesn’t. What we need to notice, and this is a more serious point about The Plot amidst all the nonsense, is that Dorries is indulging in conspiracy theory here, and conspiracy theory is so potent not because of the dark secrets that it hides but because of the energy that is put into hinting that there are dark secrets. This all goes to intensify the suspicion that things are not as they seem and that someone is at work behind the scenes, someone we will never be able to track down. Our failure to track them down is all the more evidence that a conspiracy is at work.
So, Rishi Sunak is, we are told, brought in as a Member of Parliament in 2015 and then pushed up to the top of the Tory Party, becomes Prime Minister despite his lack of knowledge of or interest in politics—he has to be schooled along the way—and, this is where things get more serious—he is “connected to the money network of the world”, with “the money men of the globe” (and “Rishi was very obviously up to something way before it became fashionable to plot against Boris”).
Rishi won’t last long though, because he is just a plaything of an unnamed “they”, probably part of the Dr. No cabal. “First though, they will use Rishi; they will benefit from Rishi. Then, when they have done so, they will remove him and replace him with Kemi, the person they have been preparing for many years”. “The trajectory Kemi is on, she must think to herself, I don’t need Gove any more.” So, she might not be Dr. No, but apparently, Nostradamus fans should look out for Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, beloved of Spiked Online, who is being lined up to take over.
Perhaps the masters of the dark arts are even aiming to get Starmer into power, and there are hints at connections between the top of the Tory Party and the Labour Party and a plan to reverse Brexit: “Dr No is at Rishi’s right hand, but you can also find him on the yachts of the anti-Corbyn Labour Party supporting men who are as secretive as him.” Who isn’t in the mix? Perhaps Munira Mirza, named alongside hubbie Dougie Smith as one of the activists in the shadowy “movement” that is behind the political assassination of Boris Johnson and a one-time acolyte of the Spiked gang, is acting on behalf of the real Dr. No, Frank Furedi? Only joking. The problem is that Dorries is not.
Nads is the dog who knows how to dog-whistle, and after leaving Boris one last time, she looks up who the “Manchurian candidate” is who has been mentioned in conversation: “At the end of the drive I looked up the meaning of Manchurian candidate: ‘a person, especially a politician, being used as a puppet by an enemy power’”. This is where the book takes a turn into more unpleasant stuff, more effective as a hint of dark powers at work than the lurid stories of Westminster sex parties spun out by two elderly politicians to Nads in a care home; she is told by these two that “They tried to legislate for some pretty extreme forms of libertarianism, all sorts of sexual stuff, in their early days”, and we are told that “The gay network has always been strong throughout the party.”
There are a lot of people Nads learns to be suspicious of, and they include David Cameron and the ghostwriter of Cameron’s memoirs, Danny Finkelstein. We are told that “Both Gove and Finkelstein were influential journalists; they could do a lot of harm to someone’s reputation if they so wished”. It makes you wonder if ‘The Plot’ was ghostwritten too. She tells us that “Being underestimated is the story of my life but it has worked so often to my advantage, I really can’t complain”, but no, it seems not. Sadly, it seems that this was all her own work—her own story of Nads taken for a ride through the looking glass.
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