Note: I am a friend of the person who has been accused by Dorries. However, I am solely responsible for the content below and for the decision to publish.
Last September, the Mail on Sunday ran a feature with a dramatic headline:
This man’s stalked me for seven years… so why can’t the police stop him? A horrifying account of a life lived in fear and a savage indictment of UK justice by NADINE DORRIES MP
The story was presented as if this were some new revelation, but Dorries’ false accusations of stalking actually go back to 2010, when she needed to explain away discrepancies between her movements as reported on her blog and her expenses claims. Dorries famously said that her blog was “70 percent fiction”, and that she had pretended to be in her constituency on her blog to “reassure” constituents of her commitment. This was met with howls of derision, at which point she said the real reason was that she needed to avoid a stalker.
At times, her claims were made in a mocking and jocular style; however, in the the Daily Mail article (“as told to Amy Oliver”) she presented herself as the victim of a terrifying ordeal:
Last July my office received a shocking email from a constituent. It warned that this man had held a meeting to organise an attack campaign against me. It said, chillingly, that this man had rented a house close to mine and had copies of my bank statements. I went home, packed a bag and fled.
Dorries first mentioned the presence of “this man” in her constituency in November 2013, and she announced it as if it were something she had just discovered, rather than a detail she had been told four months previously. Her Tweet was posted on the same day that she made a “jokey” threat of violence against a journalist who was looking into large payments made to her daughter for “secretarial support”.
It is also worth noting that Dorries has a partner who lives in Surrey, and another interview with her, from February 2015, says in the intro that “she lives in Surrey with her partner”. The story is thus useful as an explanation for absences from her constituency (although, by her own account, she does also live locally).
The article contains many shocking and lurid accusations, and we are invited to believe that the answer to the question “why can’t police stop him?” is CPS failure, rather than because she’s making stuff up. I won’t go into much detail here at this time, although I can confirm that her accusations are a mass of fictions and distortions.
As an example of her semi-detached relationship with reality, though, let us return to that first claim. A somewhat different account of the same story was published a few weeks later, at a site (since deleted) called Blink Box Books:
I received an anonymous email informing me that he had moved across England and rented a house close to me. The police traced the sender of the email and verified that the content was correct. I moved out of my home that day.
These two versions can perhaps be partially reconciled, but it is clear that the second version of the story has a sinister air that is absent from her original account. She wants us to infer, falsely, that the email was sent as a goading message in order to cause distress. This should send out alarm bells as to her reliability.
Shortly after the publication of her Mail on Sunday article, a follow-up piece appeared in the Daily Telegraph, by Radhika Sanghani. Here, Dorries pushed the boat out even further, with the claim that the man she is accusing “moved house to live on her road.” This was something Sanghani could have checked for herself – but the way that Dorries has avoided proper scrutiny for so long is by making herself constantly available for interviews: it seems that for many journalists, transcribing the utterances of a celeb is a substitute for research.
Sanghani specialises in features, and she placed Dorries’ story within a broader narrative, headlined as “Stalkers: Why career women are their new targets“. Sanghani spoke to an apparent expert (1) on the subject:
She is not the only woman to be stalked because of her profession. Laura Richards, founder and chief executive of national stalking advocacy service Paladin, tells me that workplace-related stalking is common.
…She explains that often a professional, successful woman can be a target for a stalker, especially if they – or their work – appears in the public domain. It means that the stalker can criticise them, perhaps through a blog like Dorries’ does, and appear to have legitimate concerns.
Diagnosis takes the place of evidence: something may look “legitimate”, but Richards can pronounce that the author is a stalker based on her expertise. Of course, most people will assume that a famous woman claiming to be stalked by a non-famous man will be telling the truth (at least, as she perceives it), given that this is a commonplace dynamic, but Richards is here ignoring a particular context: the false accusation deployed as a political smear.
Once Dorries was established in the media as a “victim” (also helped by a radio interview with a self-parodyingly splenetic Nick Ferrari), the progression to “expert” took just a few days. Following the suicide of Brenda Leyland (a woman accused of publishing many abusive and hurtful Tweets about the McCanns), Dorries appeared on ITV breakfast television to address the nation on the subject of trolling:
There are different types of trolls. There are those who just become very compulsive and very obsessive, and you become the focus of their life. That is actually terribly frightening, and terrifying frankly, when people do nothing but write about you all day long. That’s very scary. And what we are seeing is that a lot of people who start trolling on the internet move into physical stalking, and then that’s a real danger. And that is why the authorities really do need to be more aware of this and more responsive to the new legislation which came out last year, which actually gives the police the authority to deal with this. What they need to be done [sic] is to be trained and understand it and respond quickly.
The nature of the material being Tweeted is no longer relevant: it’s quantity rather than quality. Can anyone imagine an American politician getting away with this? There was a time when an MP demanding police intervention to censor criticism would have provoked some sceptical and critical comment; the sofa-bound presenters, though, merely nodded along.
One man did venture a modest dissent; Andy McSmith, a senior reporter at the Independent:
…This is very unpleasant for Dorries, though whether it constitutes stalking in a legal sense is doubtful. She is annoyed with the Crown Prosecution Service for not prosecuting him, but a CPS spokesman defended its decision by saying that they “must consider an individual’s right to free speech”.
The harsh truth is that Dorries is not an entirely reliable witness…
Dorries reacted with typical bile and abuse:
back on Twitter you inadequate misogynistic bully? I’m delighted to provide you with an opportunity vent your woman hating bile
Dorries also accused McSmith of working with the man she is accusing, and she called on him to be fired. Inevitably, she later progressed to calling McSmith a stalker, too. These are not the words of a victim seeking justice, but of a spiteful bully who believes the undeserved sympathy she has received for her story means that she can vilify anyone who dares to challenge her.
There is a reasonable likelihood that Dorries will react badly to what I have written above. In the past, she has accused me of being a “Twitter Troll”, in revenge for various occasions in which I have shown her to have misled Parliament or the public (I invite anyone to use the search box of this blog to find any evidence of trolling – there is none).
She has also promoted and worked with on-line stalkers with grudges against me: in 2013 she gleefully re-tweeted an obviously unhinged attack site aimed not just at me but at members of my family, and she was later triumphant when its author made a vexatious police complaint against me (see background, including the outcome, here). On Twitter, she can sometimes be seen interacting with abusive sockpuppet accounts controlled by on-line stalkers who support her agenda of vilification (2).
(1) Richards’ claim to expertise is contested. She has accused another anti-stalking specialist, Harry Fletcher, of stalking her, and comments from peers that appeared in a Daily Mail article about the matter were scathing:
Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd, who was the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on stalking and worked with Ms Richards on legislation, said: ‘I found her difficult to work with. She was making some rather strange allegations against Harry. I found her accusations to be utterly incredible.’
Senior forensic psychiatrist Dr David James, who was on the board of PAS [Protection Against Stalking], described Ms Richards as ‘reacting extravagantly when crossed’.
He added: ‘I resigned from the board of PAS because I feared that any form of association with her would be harmful to my professional reputation.
‘I was aware she has made complaints of harassment against others in the past.’
Mr Fletcher is now a director of Digital-Trust, which advises on cyber stalking.
Fellow director Jennifer Perry said: ‘Harry has been given advice and emotional support as a stalking victim himself. Spreading malicious allegations about someone is one of the stalker’s weapons.’
This all sounds strangely familiar.
(2) I am here making a very serious allegation as to Dorries’ fitness for office. She is welcome to test it in court if she thinks she has a case under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act.
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