Nadine Dorries: Her Accusations in Context

Introduction
Why this is of interest to me: The “terror trackers” and abuse
Enter Tabloid Troll
Dorries renews her accusations
The 2015 election
A threatening “peace offer”
IPSO Ruling on the Sunday Mirror

Introduction

Election results in from the constituency of mid-Bedfordshire show that Tim Ireland, the independent anti-corruption candidate, received 384 votes, or 0.7%. It was a creditable showing for an independent with a progressive perspective: in 2005, a certain Saqhib Ali (more recently standing elsewhere for Labour) polled 301 votes (0.6%) in the same constituency. It was also achieved despite a campaign of vilification by the Conservative candidate, Nadine Dorries, and a biased approach by the local media.

Mid-Bedfordshire is a safe Conservative seat, so it is no surprise that Dorries was returned: she actually increased her majority (32,544 votes in total, up from 28,815 in 2010), reflecting a wider trend in the election as a whole, her brand recognition as a celebrity, and perhaps also the continuing recovery of the Conservative vote in the constituency after it was slashed from 40,230 in 1992 to 24,176 in the 1997 bloodbath.

Why this is of interest to me: The “terror trackers” and abuse

My own interest in all this is a good example of one thing leading to another. To explain: in 2009 Tim found out that several dubious individuals describing themselves as “terror trackers” had been passing false information about supposed Islamic conspiracies to the now-disgraced buffoonish MP Patrick Mercer, from whose office they were then passed to the media. Tim’s work led to the Sun newspaper withdrawing a front-page splash about a supposed terror threat against Alan Sugar; it turned out that this sort of thing had been going on for several years, with Newsnight and even the police being hoodwinked. Given my own interest in religion and the media, I began looking into the subject in collaboration with Tim.

Unsurprisingly, Tim’s efforts were not appreciated by everyone, and the self-described “terror trackers” (who appeared to have  fallen out with each other) hit back in the way that came naturally to them: by telling lies and making threats. Anonymous comments appeared on websites, accusing Tim of paedophilia; a pdf was sent to him by someone who wanted him to know that he knew where he lived and what his house looked like (and this was before Google Street View existed). There were also menacing and goading messages on social media, some of which were also directed at me.

Meanwhile, Tim was also scrutinizing and satirizing the conduct and credibility of Nadine Dorries; I had also written about her a couple of times due to her work with the lobby group Christian Concern (an association which appears to be no longer active). Dorries found being held to account by Tim to be uncongenial, and after storming out of a hustings event in Flitwick (pron. “FLIT-TICK!”) ahead of the 2010 election when she found out that Tim was being allowed to film the event, she began to accuse him of being a “stalker”. Dorries even went to the police, who advised Tim that because of her supposed aversion to his presence, he ought to keep clear of her. Dorries misrepresented this as being a police “caution”, implying criminal conduct.

For the “terror trackers” abusing Tim – and, to a lesser extent, me – this was something of a godsend: their abuse aimed at Tim was now justified as retaliation against a stalker, rather than being self-serving attempts at intimidation and revenge. As a consequence, I now had an interest of my own in holding Dorries to account. As I looked into the subject, I became astonished at the extent of her bullying dishonesty. She was making wide-ranging accusations of “stalking” against anyone she saw as a political threat; it was also clear that she had private arrangement with Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes), by which he would promote smears against her critics. I logged a number of these instances, while the abuse from the former “terror trackers” continued sporadically.

Enter Tabloid Troll

The subject of Mercer and the “terror trackers” came up again in 2012, when Tim was looking into the identity of “Tabloid Troll”, an abusive Twitter user involved with the UK tabloid newspaper industry. “Tabloid Troll” gave a distorted account of the affair, which I then corrected, much to his anger. Tabloid Troll decided to “investigate” Tim and myself, resulting in the publication of intrusive and scurrilous anonymous websites about us and our families (discussed here and here). For the first time, Dorries deigned to acknowledge my existence, as she gleefully promoted a site that was self-evidently unhinged, and plainly the work of an actual on-line stalker and troll.

Dorries renews her accusations 

Some months later, Tim’s personal circumstances changed and he found himself living in Dorries’ constituency. Dorries says she was alerted to the fact by an email from a constituent (although her version of the story, typically, has inconsistencies), and she then decided to brand herself as a high-profile “victim of stalking”. I discussed her renewed media campaign in my previous post.

The 2015 election

Unsurprisingly, Dorries did not respond well when Tim announced his decision to stand for election earlier this year. It should be noted that this wasn’t a campaign fixated on Dorries – his theme was against corruption in politics, as manifested, for example, by the failure of the Conservative Party to remove activists who had smeared a Liberal Democrat as a paedophile in earlier election, and by the dishonesty of the Conservative Party chair, Grant Shapps.

However, Dorries claimed that Tim was standing in order to stalk her: she lobbied for him to be excluded from hustings events, and when she was rebuffed by Churches Together in Shefford she declined to appear. She did, though, send supporters and a leaflet – the events that transpired at the Shefford hustings have been described by Tim’s partner Sue, who blogs and Tweets as Humphrey Cushion, here.

Dorries also laid out a series of allegations on her blog, in which she named me as Tim’s “accomplice”. Much of her post consisted of claims made by other individuals, although nothing was documented properly and these other accusers remain anonymous (those of us in the know, though, are aware that the accusations are without substance).

The election night count was attended by Tim Fenton of Zelo Street (recently profiled in the media here); Tim F. writes:

As Bedfordshire Today has told, she says she cannot be in the same room as the man”. It’s clear from the article who the man” is.

…As the count for the Parliamentary Election got under way, all the candidates – except the fragrant Nadine – were present and, with their agents and counting agents, were watching as the piles of white ballot papers were separated out and tallied. Only as the declaration approached did the Dorries presence appear… Would she be unable to be in the same room as “the man”? Surprisingly not: time after time, she was within two metres of TI, yet no wobblers were thrown. There was no adverse reaction.

Meanwhile, the events at the Shefford hustings are currently the subject of a police complaint. The Sunday Mirror ran an article on the subject, which has since been removed; Dorries said that it was withdrawn because it contained “misinformation” (or, as she puts it, “mis information”) although she didn’t elaborate what this meant (see update below for more on this).

A threatening “peace offer”

Dorries’ renewed media campaign against Tim in September 2014 also saw the creation of a new troll account on Twitter, devoted mainly to abusing and threatening Tim, but also focusing on other targets, including me and others who have criticised Dorries. Some of the Tweets were crude or intrusive – Tim’s partner was described as a “skank”; another woman was mocked as an “old nag”; and a third person saw his photograph uploaded from another site, with an abusive comment attached (“bellend”).  The account went so far as to accuse Tim of being a “nonse” (sic), meaning “sex offender”.

The account was apparently created without Dorries’ collusion, although as soon as it came to her attention she began interacting with it and RT-ing various Tweets. She also sent at least one direct message (announced on her Twitter feed). The owner of the account was aware within minutes of the removal of the Sunday Mirror article, and this prompted a stream of abusive and mocking tweets claiming that this proved that Tim had lied to journalists.

As the election approached, the account counted down to, and then linked to, an anonymous website warning Tim not to contest the election result: a case can be made that Dorries’ behaviour in attempting to discredit Tim amounted to a breach of election law, which could form the basis for a petition. The anonymous abuser sought to “discourage” Tim from this course of action, in a long and rambling screed that included the following:

We will continue to watch your behaviour 24/7. We will never break the law but we assure you we will continue to affect your ability to live contentedly amongst us. We will not let your lies stand.

…. You are politely advised to take this last chance. We offer peace. Take it.

Tim has written about this here. [UPDATE: And the election petition is now a reality; see here for details and context]

IPSO Ruling on the Sunday Mirror [added 23 July]

It turned out that the Sunday Mirror article had been removed from the internet because Dorries had lodged a complaint with IPSO, the independent press regulator. It appears that Dorries drew a distinction between police “looking into” the incident, and a formal “police investigation”, which (she claims) can only happen after an election – obviously, it was not in her interest to clarify this flimsy basis for her “mis information” claim publicly.

Dorries also complained that the article contained a quote from police relating to the outcome of a complaint that Dorries had made against Tim, which is that he

has not committed any offence, and is purely holding the complainant to account.

Dorries argued that this assessment referred only to events up to 2010, rather than more recent allegations. However, according to IPSO:

The Committee noted the complainant’s assertion that in fact, this did not reflect the police’s current position on the conduct of the other candidate. However, in circumstances where the article had made clear subsequent legal developments in relation to the other candidate’s conduct and where it was not in dispute that the CPS had not taken further action against him, any potential discrepancy over the date of the report was not significant, and the inclusion of the statement from it was not misleading.

Tim maintains that the quote is in fact valid for later events, in any case.

This ruling follows IPSO’s rejection in June of a complaint brought by Dorries about a profile of Tim published by Bedfordshire on Sunday. The two rulings are straightforward documents that anyone can assess for themselves fairly quickly.

There are two interesting asides to this resolution:

(a) The complainant’s representative

First, the ruling makes reference to the “complainant’s representative”. No name is given, but there is reason to think that this is none other than Dennis Rice, the journalist formerly responsible for the “TabloidTroll” Twitter account. If so, this is a remarkable development in Rice’s vendetta against Tim for exposing his trolling and sockpuppeting – Rice was at one time Acting News Editor of the Sunday Mirror (in the late 1990s), yet here he is attempting to suppress a completely valid news article published by his former employer, motivated by personal spite and for the benefit of a politician.

It should be recalled that last year Rice made a complaint of his own to IPSO, against the author Peter Jukes – the outcome was discussed by Peter here and by me here. We know that Dorries has been in private communication with Rice since at least September 2014, perhaps longer.

(b) The troll account kicks off again

Second, the source of the anonymous “Peace Offer” threats and abuse aimed at Tim just after the election had a new outburst just hours before IPSO’s ruling was published.

These are scandalous associations for a Member of Parliament.

4 Responses

  1. Wow, what a tangled web after clicking on all the links to get the background of this tale.
    I contacted the BBC about 3 months with what I thought was a simple request : does the BBC check on the credentials of those they present as ‘experts’ in certain matters ?.
    My interest was a certain ex-policeman now ‘investigative journalist’ who claims to be a ‘child protection expert’ and whilst I cast no aspersions on him in respect of children, I did think we as the public with family deserve to know that large media outlets like the BBC diligently check that those they broadcast as experts in such delicate matters, are being advised by genuine experienced experts. After all it’s not like there are not plenty around.
    The BBC responded fairly quickly and stated that their policy was not to disclose whether they checked, or did not check upon the credentials of those they present as “experts” on various subjects.
    Why?. Surely it is in their own interests to do basic background checks on those they interview in order to avoid presenting some of the rum characters featured in the links above.
    Sometimes Brits excel at sheer bloody mindedness.

  2. […] occasionally get attempts to intimidate me from writing about various subjects (as I discussed just yesterday6). One such attempt occurred last September via a vexatious complaint to police which led to me […]

  3. That’s a FOI that needs asking again, and then pushing all the way through to the ICO…

    The BBC are publicly funded, you have every right to ask that question, and one could argue this is exactly the sort of thing we have the act for…

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