Boris Johnson slaps down Nadine Dorries over freedom of speech online

Culture secretary says social media has been ‘hijacked’ by left-wingers who keep challenging her views

Jon Stone,Andrew Woodcock
Friday 19 November 2021 17:47
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Nadine Dorries says social media platforms have been ‘hijacked’ by left-wingers

Boris Johnson has delivered a slap down to culture secretary Nadine Dorries after she complained that she cannot air her right wing views on social media without being challenged.

In an interview with the BBC Nadine Dorries said social media platforms had been "hijacked" by left-wingers.

She urged people to stop voicing their judgements and engaging in criticism, arguing being challenged was making people "afraid".

But asked about her comments, a Downing Street spokesperson said that the prime minister believes that freedom of speech is a “non-negotiable” part of the UK’s democracy.

Ms Dorries who has previously lashed out at "left-wing snowflakes", told the broadcaster: "I think we just need to tone down the condemnation and the judgement, and evaluate and engage a little bit more than we do. I think social media probably contributes a lot to this.

"People are afraid because of the amplification in the echo chambers of social media."

She added that many posts online were aimed at people "on the left who have hijacked that space", contrasting them with people who "do want to talk about these issues seriously".

Asked for the prime minister’s response, the No 10 spokesperson said: “You have heard the prime minister talk before about the importance of freedom of speech and the fact that it is one of the pillars of our democracy.

“The prime minister supports the idea of independent thinking and intellectual freedom, and that that should be non-negotiable.”

Downing Street later said that the spokesperson’s comment was not intended as a rebuke of the culture secretary but as a defence of the right of people of all shades of opinion to express their views.

Ms Dorries' appointment as culture secretary in September was met with shock and derision, on account of her record as MP.

In the last week the culture secretary was caught publicly ticking off the BBC’s political editor for reporting criticism of the government.

In a message to Laura Kuenssberg posted on Twitter Ms Dorries, who is currently negotiating the broadcaster’s funding settlement, branded reporting of criticism of the prime minister as “ridiculous”.

Asked in the Commons whether she was using her financial powers to pressure the public broadcaster to change its coverage, Ms Dorries said:

“I did not rebuke Laura Kuenssberg, someone who is maybe the best in the business … Some members opposite seem to have difficulty understanding a composition of 240 characters. The tweet was completely misinterpreted, I was not rebuking Laura Kuenssberg and never would.”

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