The surprise cabinet reshuffle on 15 September has brought the creative sector its third Culture Secretary under Boris Johnson’s premiership.
Oliver Dowden, the much-maligned figurehead at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has become co-chair of the Conservative Party, while former nurse, novelist, reality TV star and arch-Brexiteer Nadine Dorries, MP for North Bedfordshire, replaces him.
Although Dowden was hardly a dynamic figure, the instability of the department is especially worrying for the performing arts community as it tries to redress the catastrophe of the UK/EU Brexit deal.
Dorries’ record on Euro-baiting will not warm her to her counterparts in ongoing discussions to revive the UK’s arts touring industry. And she has yet to express her views on Dowden’s proposed privatisation of Channel 4 television, something which has caused great disquiet, even among Conservative MPs.
Dorries is an outspoken figure and regarded as strongly self-willed. She courted controversy by demanding that ‘left-wing’ comedy be curtailed, for example. But she also suffered at the hands of her party’s whip’s department, being briefly suspended for appearing on the reality TV show ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here’ while a serving MP and without requesting permission.
A successful businesswoman, Dorries is the best-selling author of the five-book ‘Lovely Lane’ series of novels, so may at least have some understanding of part of the creative sector.
The new Culture Secretary has some major issues to address apart from that of cultural touring in the EU.
She heads up the roll-out of the government’s much-vaunted Gigabit programme to give superfast broadband to the nation, and she must also address the ongoing campaign to undermine the BBC.
But the appointment is so new, she has yet to clarify her goals, and those under her new influence must be waiting for this with trepidation.