Dorries and the latest victim of the shadowy group of fixers known as The Movement

The Plot thins

Everything Dorries encounters proves how right she is


This article is taken from the December-January 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson, Nadine Dorries (HarperCollins, £25)

Anyone working in journalism has received letters from people claiming to have evidence of a vast conspiracy against them, often handwritten in tiny scrawls over many pages. They are terribly sad, and they go straight into the bin.

HarperCollins, receiving such a missive, instead decided to write the author a large cheque. The result is The Plot, in which former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries reveals that British democracy is in thrall to a mysterious group known as The Movement, which has picked and then deposed more or less every Conservative leader of the past two decades, apparently in order to advance the career of Michael Gove.

Does this sound bonkers? Wake up, sheeple! The conspiracy is well-known within Westminster, apparently: Dorries claims to have spoken to “well over fifty people” at all levels in British politics. “All of them had the same tale to tell.” I have myself spoken to one of the people she interviewed for the book and they denied having told her this tale, but perhaps Big Gove has got to them.

Conspiracy theories often flow from a trauma someone can’t process. For Dorries it was the fall of Boris Johnson. You might think that Johnson’s obvious failings and his instinct to lie his way out of trouble finally drove his MPs to get rid of him. But Dorries seems unable to imagine anyone looking at Johnson and seeing less than the evolutionary peak of our species. Certainly, her fifty-plus interviewees included no one who thought dumping Johnson was a good idea. So of course there must have been a decades-long conspiracy to remove him. It’s the only explanation.

Everything Dorries encounters proves how right she is. Rishi Sunak was The Movement’s man. The Movement is behind every nasty political story you read — but the nasty stories about Sunak are also the work of The Movement. Isn’t it obvious?

No one has told Dorries she needs things like evidence and witnesses

Normally the decent thing to do with this stuff would be to steer the person explaining it gently towards the nearest security guard. Instead a major publisher has seen fit to release a book, so we must say clearly that this is nonsense, and everyone involved should be ashamed. It is not even readable. In each chapter, Dorries meets a new source, generally anonymous, who explains the theory again, at great length. Although the author is playing at journalism, no one has told her she needs things like evidence and witnesses. Where there are facts, there are mistakes. Dates are wrong; events are confused. Very few of her sources claim to know anything for certain. Instead they offer second-hand gossip and supposition.

Do these people even exist? It’s hard to know. On the one hand, it’s very hard to imagine anyone going to the trouble of making up these endless, turgid monologues. On the other, they all sound the same, making the same convoluted points at similar length, explaining the same basic things about Westminster to her in a way that suggests that, if they are real, they think Dorries is an idiot.

Again and again Dorries’s sources predict the events of the coming months with uncanny accuracy. Perhaps this is intended to show how connected they are. Instead it makes them implausible. I laughed out loud when a woman working for the security services — Dorries hints it’s MI6 — explained that “the money network of the world” had a plan to bring down the new prime minister Liz Truss within three months.

These moments of unintended humour are the book’s sole redeeming feature. At one point Dorries stands in awe and wonder at the realisation that Johnson has just quoted a line of Wordsworth. “Boris is the only person I have met in my life who has the ability to effortlessly insert a great poet into daily conversation, without missing a beat.” It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

Even as an effort to defend Johnson, the book fails. Trying to explain the bits of the historical record that cannot be denied, Dorries portrays her hero as a weak fool. He was tricked into giving Dominic Cummings a job and bullied into keeping him. Misleading the Queen? He never meant to do that. The Owen Paterson vote? He was badly advised.

The picture she paints of Britain’s Greatest Ever Leader is of a gullible man easily pushed into bad decisions by the wicked advisors he’d been so easily prodded into appointing. In desperately trying to scrub away Johnson’s guilt, Dorries has removed his agency. Or perhaps that was The Movement, too.

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