Downing Street’s readout for the media of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting inevitably focused on Boris Johnson’s fightback; he told ministers 2022 would be a year of delivery on “the priorities of the British people”. The briefing did not mention that Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, came under fire for pronouncing the death of the BBC licence fee without consulting her cabinet colleagues.
Donald Trump would have been proud of Dorries’s explosive tweet saying her settlement on the fee lasting until 2027 “will be the last”. But ministers including Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Therese Coffey all queried it. Dorries had overshot the runway and went into reverse in the Commons; pointedly, she did not repeat her death sentence for the licence fee.
Bizarrely, the culture secretary tried to end the debate about the BBC’s future in the same breath as she started it. It was back-to-front politics, another symptom of chaotic government as Johnson fights to remain prime minister. With plan A (“there were no parties”) plainly a joke, he reheated the Tories’ old chestnut of plan BBC. Johnson told the cabinet: “We can’t expect people to keep paying a licence fee just because they own a TV.” To divert attention from his woes on Partygate, he was more than happy to rush out a two-year freeze in the licence fee before the end of negotiations with a blindsided BBC.
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