So, what’s the story about Nadine Dorris’s The Plot, subtitled, The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson – just so you know, the subtitle sums up the gist. The former Culture Secretary – and the joke there was on us – gave up her parliamentary seat in August to write this much-anticipated book, which entailed interviewing no fewer than 50 terrifically important people, almost all of them anonymous. “Each person I interviewed … told me the same thing, that I was uncovering something dark and deeply undemocratic”.
Which is? “There is a small group of men, most of them unelected…operating at the heart of the Conservative party…for 25 years or more they have set out to control the destiny of the Conservative Party. …..It is a story that has never been told … a shocking tale of corruption and unaccountable power” They include Dominic Cummings; Munira Mirza and her husband Dougie Smith; Simon Case, cabinet secretary; staff of The Spectator; Sue Gray and Lee Cain. Or, as one informant observed, “there’s one behind every desk in No.10”.
Then there’s “Dr No” who is paid by Conservative Central Office and circles round the fringes of sex parties. If you’re shocked, as I was, to learn that Tories do sex parties, let’s recall that Dougie Smith, Number 10 adviser, was once co-founder of Fever Parties, which ran swingers party for the rich. Behind Dr No, or possibly next to him, is the elected Michael Gove “who binds all the dark arts people together”. So dark are the arts that only allusions to James Bond can do them justice, and so we find chapters headed On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Moneypenny.
The conspirators, it seems, also hated Liz Truss because she was “a total outsider”; as for the civil service, “the Remain machine was fundamentally against Boris”.
The pity is that Nadine does have a point, buried beneath the deathless prose
All this Nadine picks up chiefly in the congenial environment of a private members’ club. “I have become a regular at 5 Hertford Street”, she tells us. “There are worse places to base yourself when you are writing a book than in a secret nook in Mayfair where someone brings you food and drink all day". There is no justice in this world if they don’t give her next year’s membership free.
Other revelations include:
1.Boris is a genius. “His brilliance is a combination of his academic intelligence and his creativity.
2. The PM had no idea about the lockdown parties at Number 10.
3. There is no truth in the sex dossier that circulated about Liz Truss before her election – “just ridiculous”. As for Liz T’s political motivation, “she burns with the light of a hundred thousand suns on…small government and low taxes”.
4. Carrie is much maligned, especially about her expenses.
5. Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove were fanatically pro-lockdown; the harder, the better.
6. Number 10 serves very common bacon rolls – “who eats this shit?”, asks her corporate informant.
7. The coffee in Number 10 is awful. “If [Simon Case] wanted to give the appearance of being good at his job, why didn’t he just get someone to sort out the coffee?"
The pity is that Nadine does have a point, buried beneath the deathless prose (“the weak and silvery lilac sun that had filled the room slipped behind a cloud”). There is a group of journalists, policymakers, special advisers and politicos who know each other, socialise, intermarry and exercise more influence on policy than elected MPs. But you know what? It’s for a Prime Minister to appoint competent people and to ignore those who advise him badly, including his wife, or sack them. The victim of The Plot was the author of his own undoing.
Melanie McDonagh is an Evening Standard columnist