EXCLUSIVE: A prominent Scottish MP is attempting to block former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ path to the House of Lords over her controversial claim that Channel 4 used actors in Love Productions’ reality format Tower Block of Commons.
John Nicolson, who sits on the influential Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee (DCMSC) and famously grilled Dorries over Tower Block of Commons in May, has written to House of Lords Appointments Commission Chair Lord Bew and referred the matter to the UK’s Commons Committee of Privileges. Deadline has seen the letter.
Nicolson argues that Dorries’ knowingly misled a parliamentary committee with her “seemingly entirely false” claim and therefore should not be allowed to enter the House of Lords. The former I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! contestant stepped down as Culture Secretary earlier this week and is expected to be given a peerage.
In July, Channel 4 and Tower Block of Commons producer Love investigated Dorries’ comments that the people who took part in the format were “not really living in a flat” and “were actually actors,” concluding there was “no evidence to support the allegations made about the programme.”
Others who took part in the show 12 years ago, a social experiment format that saw MPs such as Dorries live in deprived UK housing estates, have publicly refuted her claims.
Nicolson’s letter to Bew requested that any decision on [Dorries’] appointment to the Lords be delayed until the Commons Committee of Privileges takes a decision on whether to investigate and then rule on this serious matter.”
“If Ms. Dorries’ claims are substantiated her appointment can proceed,” added Nicolson. “But if Channel 4’s investigation remains unchallenged by evidence, it will be clear that the Secretary of State has misled a Commons Select Committee and will thus be an inappropriate person to be recommended by the Prime Minister for a peerage.”
Nicolson described Dorries’ account as “seeming to be entirely false” and said the matter is of “great importance as she is attacking the credibility of Channel 4 – a broadcaster which she plans to privatise in a highly controversial move.”
Dorries has previously doubled down on her claims. Responding to the DCMSC chair in July, she said she had “set out my own experiences of taking part in the programme and stand by those remarks.”
During her year-long Culture Secretary stint, Dorries rubberstamped legislation to sell Channel 4, a move opposed by 96% of respondents to the government consultation and shown by polling to be bottom of Conservative voter priorities. Her department was also accused by Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon of trying to alter the wording of its annual report to make the Great British Bake Off network appear less financially sustainable.
Dorries’ replacement Michelle Donelan must now decide whether to push on with privatization or reverse the policy.
Deadline has reached out to Dorries’ office for comment.