First things first. The author would insist this is not fiction. Others would agree and call it hogwash, but while the jacket blurb to this book by Nadine Dorries (she is pictured on the home page) talks about it having “unparalleled access to multiple inside sources”, it certainly strains credulity to regard this as a factual account of contemporary British politics unless one has been living in an (un)paralleled universe. But I guess it was inevitable that a book entitled The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson would contain more than its fair share of out-of-left-field moments. For the purposes of this blog – as well as for other reasons – I’m treating it as fiction. In the words of Private Eye: “The only way this book could be more mind-bending is if the pages were soaked in LSD.”
There were more reviews like that. In The Times, Patrick Maguire said there was a good story in there somewhere “but Dorries is the last person who should be telling it…she can’t write”. In the Daily Telegraph, Christopher Howse said reading it was “like wading through shredded paper”. In the New Statesman, Will Lloyd wrote: “I realised it did not really matter if this immensely entertaining book was true or not.” On Twitter, Dorries reduced this description to “immensely entertaining”.
Don’t bother reading this if you want to find out how hacked off she was that she didn’t get her peerage. That’s not mentioned. Nor is how she used her position as Culture Secretary to try recklessly to sell off Channel 4 because of its perceived treatment of Johnson. Dorries cheers on Johnson for insisting that Kate Bingham be brought in to oversee the government’s post-pandemic vaccine strategy; of Dido [Test & Trace] Harding, on the other hand, there is no…er, trace. In a book bloated with bullshit (e.g. ‘Partygate’ simply never happened), some sort of prize perhaps ought to go to this sentence: “You would have to search for a long time to find anyone who disagrees with the assertion that Boris got every big call right.”
I think you would have to search for a long time to find anyone who thinks some shady Tory panjandrums were capable of the level of Machiavellian expertise Dorries suggests was in play throughout BoJo’s mostly woeful premiership. And she’s not so hot on the smaller details. For example, on page 183 we read “Rishi massively underestimated his own popularity with party members” (she means overestimated). Overleaf, on page 185, it’s “So, Boris, in ’21, less than a year after you had won an historic general election, [Dominic] Cummings and [Lee] Cain tried to get you to stand down.” That may or may not be a question, probably rhetorical if so, but said election was in ’19, so her timing is fundamentally flawed.
But that Cummings anecdote is indicative some of the less than savoury goings-on that surrounded the Johnson premiership, not all of it his doing. (Cummings indeed told Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC that within “days not months” of the election he was looking to get Johnson replaced.) However, it is quite a stretch to buy into Dorries’ theory that all along the Conservative Party set up Johnson to fail; that Sunak would take over, lose the election and Labour would reverse Brexit…
…and yet one of Dorries’ ‘insiders’ comments near the end that “Vote Leave had always been about just about losing, it had never been about winning”. This has been said before: that what Johnson wanted was that Remain would win the EU referendum in 2016 but as the leading Leaver he would be certain to succeed David Cameron as prime minister when he stood down, as he had said he would, before the next election.
Hey, the games they play with us mere mortals for their sport – and I’m not thinking of the incident Dorries recounts of one Tory MP having sex with a prostitute on a billiard table while four colleagues cheered him on. Well, she refers to a billiard table, but they don’t have pockets – unlike some of the Tory backers she also refers to, who have very deep ones. I think in this case she’s not just talking billiards or even bollocks. She’s simply talking snookers.