Nadine Dorries began her new prime time show on Talk TV last night with a promise of transparency. Her debut guest, Boris Johnson, was about to give his “most candid” interview since leaving office last July. Ah, yes, candour. Openness, honesty, frankness – the very qualities the Chatterer has always associated with Johnson.
Dorries has no broadcasting experience, other than trying to shut down Channel 4 when she was Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Her qualifications for hosting a talk show are, one imagines, that she is cheap, available, loud, and has seen an autocue before.
“Friday Night with Nadine” was never going to be an evening of rigorous journalism. An interview between Johnson and his most slavish former Cabinet colleague was never going to be Frost Nixon. But still. The following was an actual question Dorries asked her “friend” about Partygate:
Do you think it was wrong of you to focus all your attention on the vaccine… and saving lives… or do you think you should have been prowling the corridors of 10 Downing Street, that warren of offices, checking up on 250 employees, and asking them what they were doing on the Friday nights when you were in Chequers?
If that doesn’t give a full sense of the tone here, which flirted with outright Russia Today obsequiousness, consider that Dorries thought that the Germans and Americans sent tanks to Ukraine because Johnson wrote an article demanding they do so in the Daily Mail a couple of weeks ago. “The US and Germany are listening to you”, cooed Dorries. Johnson — and this might have been a television first — looked genuinely mortified, and said the timing was a coincidence.
The Chatterer assumes that most of the journalists who joined Talk TV did not do so to become a propaganda outlet for Boris Johnson. Few of them tweeted anything to do with ‘Friday Night with Nadine’ before or after the show went out. Pity the poor producer who had to write chyrons like “BORIS: I ‘NEARLY BLACK OUT’ LAUGHING AT PINK PANTHER”.
Was there news value to any of this? Johnson said he can make gravy. Johnson (wisely) demurred when Dorries suggested his bond with Zelensky was down to them “being fathers”. Johnson called Keir Starmer a “snoozefest” and talked about his new hobby – drawing cows.
Boris Johnson is a decaying political product. His polling is terrible, and he could lose his seat at the next election. He flubbed the awesome opportunity to remake the country after his 2019 landslide. At his bashful peak, Johnson could be grilled by a real journalist like Eddie Mair and come out of it on the other side with his reputation somehow enhanced.
Today he shills crypto in Singapore, and fields cake-soft questions from his political outriders. Strangely then, this did turn out to be a candid interview. Just by taking place at all, it told us exactly where Johnson is right now.