Nadine Dorries is not mad, her allegations of a shadowy Tory mafia are serious

Nadine Dorries in ‘first TV interview since resigning’

Nadine Dorries has become the boy in the famous children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” who is willing to point out what everybody can see but nobody wants to acknowledge.

Her new book seeks to expose what another ally of Boris Johnson has described to as “a mafia operation at the heart of the Conservative Party”.

It has its roots in the years after the 1997 election humiliation and William Hague’s decision to “modernise” the party.

What she has not detailed so far though is the way this alleged small cabal with Michael Gove at its heart can control the party and decide who the leader is or is not.

How were they able to press the button and get MPs to resign as ministers, send in letters and then force out the leader elected by the members.

As Dorries notes this is not just Boris Johnson, the same cabal removed Iain Duncan Smith, (possibly) David Cameron, Theresa May and Liz Truss.

How the Conservative Party is controlled

The key to it has always been controlling who becomes candidates for safe and winnable seats and who becomes Conservative MPs.

As it happens this week, I was having lunch with two Brexiteers who had been on the candidates list but seen their hopes crushed for no specific reason.

The tale by one of them explains in many ways how this group have their power.

This former candidate contacted Dominic Cummings in 2019 asking for help in getting a winnable seat because the two of them had worked before.

The candidate had been involved with Vote Leave (which itself had been run by Gove and Cummings) and is a proper low-tax Conservative on the right of the party.

Cummings was said to have replied with an email copying in another member of the alleged cabal Dougie Smith stating that this candidate was one of them and should be helped to get into Parliament.

Smith then told the candidate to work on a safe seat which had just come open and said he would sort it out for him (as he had done for so many others).

That was Smith’s strength; he has a reputation for getting the people selected.

The prospective candidate though very quickly realised that Smith had already “fixed the seat” for a former special adviser on the left of the party.

“I was played,” the ex-candidate reflected. “Just a pawn in their game. If you look at the selections, they pretended they would try to get Brexiteers in but actually fixed it for candidates from the left of the party.”

The fate of Boris Johnson

Smith is said to have worked with another long-time shadowy “moderniser” Gareth Fox who has essentially run the candidate selections since the David Cameron leadership began.

But the game is not just about bringing in liberal wets into the Tory ranks of MPs to move it to the left, it is about power.

Every mafia organisation calls in its favours just like the opening scene to the Godfather.

Vito Corleone agrees to avenge the abuse of a man’s daughter but tells him: “Some day, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”

It is no stretch of the imagination that MPs who believe they owe their seats to Smith and Gove’s Order of the Phoenix group would be available to have their favours called in.

This gives real power to the words that Smith is accused of using to Boris Johnson in 2021.

“I think you should go, you should stand down now and we may let you come back again one day. You are poison, like Nixon. If you don’t go, I’m going to take you down. I’ll finish you off’.”

How could he be so sure they could let him return as leader one day and be able to finish him off without control of the parliamentary party?

The whole book brings into question other allegations which were washing around at the time of Mr Johnson’s downfall.

One of these included Warrington South MP Andy Carter who was on the Privileges Committee and denied claims he had been promised a safe seat by Smith in return for agreeing to the suspension of Johnson.

The fact that Carter has failed to get a safe seat – he was rejected for North West Leicestershire – suggests the story probably was not true.

But if we go back to 2016 when Gove suddenly abandoned Boris Johnson and took the list of supporting MPs for his own leadership campaign with him, we can see why Johnson knew he could not win.

The fall of Liz Truss

Then there was another story regarding Liz Truss’s short-lived leadership.

A source told that midway through August last year Team Rishi “realised the game was up” for Truss.

The source added: “From that point it was all about trying to work out how to remove Truss when she became leader.”

This seems fanciful but the person who recounted the claim was not part of Team Truss and had campaigned for Sunak.

Dorries has claimed that Team Rishi included this shadowy cabal.

To be fair on Truss her team tried to remove the poison. Mark Fullbrook her chief of staff even removed Dougie Smith’s pass to Downing Street.

It may have hastened her demise. has learnt that Truss had a fateful meeting with Gove a week before the party conference last year.

A source claimed: “Gove spent 45 minutes with her one to one the week before Conference. He pledged his support in return for us giving his ‘boys’ jobs.

“Next Sunday he launched the wave of attacks at Conference that crippled us.”

In both coups the control of MPs was essential.

Getting the right leader

The mass resignation of ministers to bring down Boris Johnson was coordinated as we saw from the Whatsapp messages by Kemi Badenoch revealed by Lord Greenhalgh.

Badenoch has long been identified as a future leader, but she has provoked suspicion because she has been accused of being “a creature of Gove”.

Michael Gove ran her leadership campaign last year which many saw as a spoiler for the candidates of the right to help Sunak get in – an accusation that was denied by Gove and Badenoch.

According to Dorries she is now being lined up as the next leader by Gove and his allies.

That said a senior party member this week told “The one thing that will stop Kemi from being leader is that people think if you vote for her, you get Gove.”

With Truss, while she did not help herself with her mini-budget, the collapse came as a combination of the Bank of England’s actions, market reaction and Tory MPs turning against her.

But the killer followed with a leadership contest where only Rishi Sunak could muster the more than 100 MPs needed to get him over the line for nominations.

A bar set, allegedly, by allies of this group on the party board in the knowledge that only they could control sufficient support for their man.

It is worth noting that friends of Boris Johnson have told that he abandoned his attempt for a comeback at the last minute “because he knew these same people would knife him again and he could not beat them.”

Interestingly, in both Sunak and Badenoch’s case it has been claimed that Smith helped arrange them getting their seats in Richmond and Safron Walden respectively. While impossible to prove but it has been widely speculated for years.

But what better way to control the party than to have one of the people you placed in the top spot? They failed to install Gove himself as leader.

Origins of the cabal

The origins of this group date back to William Hague’s leadership when the process of modernising the party started.

It was Hague’s reforms which saw power stripped from constituencies over selections and handed more to CCHQ and the parliamentary party.

Now there is a push by some (possibly encouraged by this shadowy group) to remove any say ordinary members have over the future leader or selections at all.

They have come up with names for party members which have leaked out at various points underlining their disdain.

“The turnip Taliban” was one infamously used by Cameron, “fruitcakes” has been another.

The early recruitment of the group and push for “modernisation” was overseen by party grandee Francis Maude.

It was him who refused to sack Smith when it was revealed he had a side business running sex parties.

During those years Gove became a candidate and key member of the Cameron set and Cummings was recruited and worked closely with Gove for many years.

The thinking was that the Tories had, as Theresa May once put it, become “the nasty party” and it needed to mordernise and become more centrist and liberal.

Candidates were picked in that mould and the right of the party was slowly edged out.

Some rightwingers like Andrew Bridgen got through the net because they were not expected to win but were often eliminated.

The end game

But modernisation has, if Dorries’ allegations are true, turned into a desire to hold on to power and the levers of the party.

Given the way selections are currently going, arguably, the next election will see the culmination of the project and will be the end of the hopes that the Conservative Party can be conservative again.

The two-party system created by First Past the Post makes this very hard to challenge if not impossible for a new party to break through even when it has some success (ask Nigel Farage).

Nadine Dorries’ book is about Boris but in truth she appears to be lifting a lid on the way British democracy has been hijacked.

Many agree with Dorries’ assertions and claims and her accusations were at the heart of the rise of Lord Cruddas and David Campbell Bannerman and Priti Patel’s Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) to bring back power to the grassroots.

For all the arguments over policy and Brexit, it is this that is at the heart of the Tory civil war and the fact is that the cabal has almost won.

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