Nadine Dorries has dropped the ball – again.
The culture secretary caused a backlash after confusing rugby league with the rival sport, rugby union, at an event in the sport’s heartlands.
Dorries stunned a rugby league audience in St Helens by referring to Jonny Wilkinson’s match-winning drop goal for England in the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup final in Sydney.
Dorries – whose full brief is secretary of state for culture, media and sport – was speaking at the launch of a report into the social impact made by the 2021 Rugby League World Cup at the Portico Vine community club.
“I’ve always quite liked the idea of rugby league,” she said.
“My long-standing memory is that 2003 drop goal.
“I’ll let you into a secret.
“I think we were drinking Bloody Mary’s at the time.
“It was 11 o’clock in the morning but wow what a moment that was.
“I have heard and I know from my limited watching that it’s an incredibly physical and sometimes brutal sport and it often ends up in a scrum, which actually reminds me very much of politics.
“I think we have a lot in common and given a lot of the media like to call me the prime minister’s attack dog, I wonder sometimes if I should give rugby a go.”
Dorries attempted make light of her faux pas, saying on Twitter that she may have “switched codes like Jason Robinson”.
But former England rugby union player and broadcaster Brian Moore led the criticism online, tweeting: “When I was told about this, I had to ask if it was a parody, but Dorries is beyond parody.
“She does not bother to master her brief and isn’t clever enough to compensate. Given the context, this is probably the stupidest mistake you could make.”
Her comments were condemned by Portico Vine vice-chairman Billy Vaughan.
“Whoever writes these scripts should check their facts before the speeches are delivered,” Vaughan said.
“And secondly, if you are the person who is delivering the speech then you need to do your research to check the information you have been given is correct.
“The difference between rugby league and rugby union is immense, we are the minnow by comparison.
“I applaud the government for the money they have invested in rugby league but to make that reference to the drop-goal, we were floundered.”
It’s not the first time questions have been raised about whether Dorries is up to the job.
In November, she didn’t seem to know how Channel 4 – which the government wants to privatise – is funded.
It does not receive public funding but is ultimately owned by the state, with all the money it makes from advertising going back into the broadcaster. But the culture secretary claimed the broadcaster was in “receipt of public money”.
It was also reported in March that she asked Microsoft executives when they were going to “get rid” of its algorithms.
In April, she featured in a fellow Tory MP’s TikTok to explain her job, and talked about how she is responsible for broadband, which means “you can downstream your movies” at home.