TOs the weeks wear on following No 10’s “partygate” scandal and the number of Conservative MPs urging Boris Johnson to go continues to climb, one person has emerged as the prime minister’s most loyal defender.
Nadine Dorries, undeterred by two new calls for Johnson to resign and fresh reports that police have a photograph of the PM holding a can of Estrella at his lockdown birthday party, leapt to his defense on Saturday in a series of bizarre interviews.
Among the highlights of the culture secretary’s morning airwaves blitz was an excruciatingly awkward interview with BBC Breakfast presenter Charlie Stayt, in which Dorries refused to say whether she had spoken to the prime minister recently.
Speaking live from Gloucestershire, she would only reveal that she had “communicated” with Johnson. In a stilted combative exchange reminiscent of Donald Trump’s former adviser Kellyanne Conway, she reprimanded Stayt for his questioning style of him.
Asked whether she had spoken to the prime minister recently in the past 24 hours, she said: “Why? Why are you asking me that question?” When he responded that he “would like to know”, she would only divulge that they had “communicated”.
In response to a question about Johnson’s mood, she said it was “extremely positive” and revealed that “onwards is one of his favorite expressions”. When asked whether he had changed, she asked: “Changed what?”
“His attitude,” said Stayt. To which Dorries responded: “To what?”
On the subject of Johnson’s claims about employment numbers, she insisted that Johnson tells the truth “to the best of his knowledge” – based on advice given to him by his aides. “So did he tell the truth when he quoted that? Yes, he told the truth as it was given to him,” she said.
On to BBC Radio 4’s Today where she proceeded to mix up the names of Tory MPs Martin and Matt Vickers. Asked about the 2019 intake of red wall MPs, she started talking about a “Martin Vickers”, who she said is “up in the far north of England in South Tees” and recently appeared on Channel 4 News in support of the prime minister. In fact she appeared to be talking about Matt Vickers, MP for Stockton South in the Tees Valley, who on Wednesday told the programme: “Teesside’s got a lot to be happy about.”
She then moved on to Times Radio where she suggested dissenters of the prime minister were part of a remainer plot.
“There are a small number of voices, whether they are people who were ardent supporters of remain, who see this as their last opportunity to reverse Brexit,” she said. Asked whether moves against Johnson were part of a “remainer plot”, she said: “That certainly is at play with a group.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with Sky News, she insisted that “97%” of Tory MPs support the prime minister and that the health secretary, Sajid Javid, was “100%” behind Johnson, despite seeking to distance himself from his false claims about Keir Starmer failing to pursue Jimmy Savile.
Once again she reprimanded a journalist, telling Niall Paterson: “I’m not a random backbencher.”