Former UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has come under fire from a UK government report for her claims that a Channel 4 documentary used actors.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s special report on Dorries’ comments about counterfeiting in a reality TV show Tower of the Commons asked why she hadn’t reconsidered evidence given at a previous political committee that she couldn’t prove.
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The report today published scathing findings suggesting she used the situation ‘to defame Channel 4’s reputation’.
Dorries, who was replaced as Culture Secretary last month when Liz Truss became Prime Minister, is a longtime critic of Channel 4 and has advocated selling the public broadcaster into private hands. However, she herself had appeared in the program.
In a statement today, the chairman of the DCMS committee, Julian Knight MP, said: ‘We recognize that those who testify will sometimes make mistakes, but it is of vital importance to the integrity of parliamentary oversight that they are then corrected. We are disappointed that despite having had several opportunities to reconsider her position, the former Secretary of State did not admit that her memories may have been incorrect.
“People will be able to draw their own conclusions about the contrast between his claims and subsequent correspondence with the committee, and Channel 4’s extensive investigation.”
Tower of the Commons was a 2010 reality television series The Great British Bake Off producer Love Productions in which MPs left behind “the splendor of Westminster and their comfortable homes for eight days and eight nights to live in council tower blocks in some of Britain’s most deprived areas”.
In the doc, Dorries, who was an MP at the time, moved into a west London flat with sisters Rena and Renisha Spaine. She then claimed in May this year that she had discovered that people portrayed as ordinary members of the public living in a deprived housing estate were paid actors.
Dorries had claimed that the parents of several boys in the program had told her that their children were in drama school and that a pharmacist was also an actor. She later claimed that a homeless youngster featured in the doc revisited her office in Westminster and told her he was an actor who lived at home with his mother. However, she was unable to name him.
Channel 4 and Love both denied the allegations, and Love conducted a thorough investigation into the allegations, with outside lawyers overseeing the process. It found no sign of actors being employed and internal Channel 4 investigations also found no evidence to support the allegations.
In July, Knight asked Dorries to corroborate her claims and correct the record if necessary, but the minister replied that she stood by her words. Knight then gave him a second opportunity to correct the record and noted that the DCMS committee had begun to review whether his claims were “not an inadvertent error, but a deliberate attempt to mislead”.
The situation got even worse when Deadline revealed that DCMS member and Scottish MP John Nicolson was trying to block Dorries’ path to the House of Lords over the controversial claim.
The DCMS report is scathing, noting: “We find neither the original claims nor the credible clarifications and have seen no corroboration of his claims that Channel 4 and Love Productions used actors in a reality TV show . On the other hand, the detailed investigation carried out by Channel 4 gives us the assurance that its assertions are without foundation. We are concerned that Ms Dorries appears to have taken the opportunity, under the protection of privilege, to defame the reputation of Channel 4.”
Dorries has yet to respond to the report.
The news comes on another wild day for British politics. In the final minutes, Truss resigned as prime minister after 45 days, making his tenure the shortest in the country’s history.
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