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Former UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has been strong criticized by a British government report over her claims a Channel 4 documentary used actors.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s special report into Dorries’ comments about fakery in reality show Tower Block of Commons considered why she had not reconsidered evidence provided at a previous political committee that she could not prove.
The report today published scathing findings that suggest she had used the situation “to traduce the reputation of Channel 4.”
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Dorries, who was replaced as Culture Secretary last month as Liz Truss became Prime Minister, is a long-time critic of Channel 4 and advocated selling the government-owned broadcaster into private hands. However, she herself had appeared in the program.
In a statement today, DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said: “We recognise that those giving evidence will occasionally make mistakes, but it is vitally important for the integrity of parliamentary scrutiny that they are then corrected. We are disappointed that despite being provided with several opportunities to reconsider her position, the former Secretary of State failed to countenance that her recollections may have been flawed.
“People will be able to draw their own conclusions about the contrast between her claims and subsequent correspondence with the committee, and Channel 4’s thorough investigation.”
Tower Block of Commons was a 2010 reality series from The Great British Bake Off producer Love Productions in which Members of Parliament left behind “the splendour of Westminster and their comfortable homes for eight days and nights to live in council tower blocks estates in some of Britain’s most deprived neighbourhoods.”
In the doc, Dorries, who was serving as an MP at the time, moved into a West London flat with sisters Rena and Renisha Spaine. She subsequently claimed in May this year she had discovered people presented as ordinary members of the public living on a deprived housing estate were paid actors.
Dorries had claimed parents of several boys in the program had told her their children were in acting school and that a pharmacist was also an actor. She later claimed that a young homeless man featured in the doc had 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 claims, and Love conducted a full investigation into the claims, with external lawyers overseeing the process. It found no sign of actors being employed and Channel 4’s internal investigations similarly found no evidence to support the allegations.
In July, Knight asked Dorries to provide corroboration to her claims and to correct the record if necessary but the minister responded that she stood by her remarks. Knight then gave her a second opportunity to correct the record and noted the DCMS committee had begun to consider whether her claims were “now not an inadvertent mistake but a deliberate attempt to mislead.”
The situation even escalated further, as Deadline revealed 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 do not find either the original claims, or the clarifications to be credible and have seen no corroboration of her claims that Channel 4 and Love Productions used actors in a reality television show. In contrast, the detailed investigation carried out by Channel 4 gives us confidence that her claims are groundless. We are concerned Ms Dorries appears to have taken an opportunity, under the protection of privilege, to traduce the reputation of Channel 4.”
The news comes in another wild day for British politics. In the past few minutes, Truss has resigned as Prime Minister after 45 days, making her term in office the shortest in the country’s history.
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