THE former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has launched a scathing attack on Rishi Sunak's government after her successor advised him to drop plans to privatise Channel 4.

Ms Dorries, who developed the idea under Boris Johnson's premiership, said it was part of a series of U-turns washing Tory policies "down the drain" and would destroy voters' trust in the party.

The outburst followed Michelle Donelan writing to the Prime Minister recommending the Government drops its plans to privatise the publicly-owned broadcaster.

In a letter to Mr Sunak shared by Global’s Lewis Goodall, Ms Donelan said she had “concluded that pursuing a sale at this point is not the right decision and there are better ways to secure C4C’s (Channel 4 Corporation) sustainability and that of the independent production sector”.

Its role in supporting the independent production sector “would be very disrupted by a sale at a time when growth and economic stability are our priorities”, she added.

Channel 4 was created in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government and unlike other broadcasters, everything it airs is commissioned from external production companies.

In November 2021, Ms Dorries infamously told a Commons committee that the channel was "in receipt of public money", when in fact it is entirely funded by commercial activity, principally advertising.

Ms Dorries tweeted today: “Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain.

"Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down. A bonfire of EU leg, not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2b reversed. Replaced with what?

“A policy at some time in the future to teach maths for longer with teachers we don’t yet even have to do so. Where is the mandate - who voted for this?

“Will now be almost impossible to face the electorate at a GE and expect voters to believe or trust our manifesto commitments.”

In her letter, Ms Donelan acknowledged the “view of my predecessor” was that selling C4C was the “right solution” to issues around its long-term sustainability, but said she had come to the opposite conclusion after “reviewing the business case”.

She said she planned to announce a new package of measures to “help tackle” the challenges C4C will face in the “evolving media sector”.

These include relaxing restrictions on the broadcaster to allow it to create some of its own content and diversify its revenue “should it wish to do so”.

Also included was a new statutory duty on the board to have a “clear focus” on the long-term sustainability of the business.

She said it was important to provide the corporation with “certainty” about the Government’s intention to scrap privatisation “as soon as possible”.

Ms Donelan, who was appointed by Liz Truss in September and remained in the role after Mr Sunak took over as PM in October, had previously cast doubt on plans to privatise C4C. 

She said she was re-examining the “business case” to make sure “we still agree with that decision”.

When the Government announced plans last year to take the channel out of public ownership, it said it was so the broadcaster can better survive in a media landscape dominated by the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: “The Conservatives’ vendetta against Channel 4 was always wrong for Britain, growth in our creative economy and a complete waste of everyone’s time.

“Our broadcasting and creative industries lead the world, yet this government has hamstrung them with this total distraction.”

She added: “Labour opposed this sell off, and took a strong stand. Government must now bring forward the Media Bill to protect and promote Britain’s broadcasters in the streaming age.

“Whilst the Conservatives crash our economy, we have a plan to nurture and grow our creative industries.”

Simon Hoare, Conservative MP for North Dorset, tweeted: “A welcome and excellent decision/recommendation by @michelledonelan: if it ain’t broke; don’t fix it!”

A spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We do not comment on speculation. The DCMS Secretary of State has been clear that we are looking again at the business case for the sale of Channel 4. We will announce more on our plans in due course.” 

SNP Media Spokesperson John Nicolson MP said: “I am pleased  the UK Culture Secretary has decided against Channel 4 privatisation - reversing her Conservative predecessor’s plans. 

"Privatising this highly successful and much-loved public institution has been an obsession for right wing zealots in the Conservative Party for years.

"But it never made commercial sense. Channel 4 has a growing audience and has made record profits. 

"Channel 4 has a long and illustrious history of innovative commissioning, allowing creative production all across the UK - with Scotland an especially strong centre for programme making.

"Channel 4 News is universally recognised for its outstanding journalism. Privatisation would have threatened its long format news. And profit focussed decision making put at risk the future of ‘Unreported World’ - Channel 4’s award winning documentary strand which is expensive to make but an invaluable resource for viewers. 

"This is the second time in recent years the Conservatives have threatened Channel 4 with privatisation. On both occasions the SNP benches at Westminster and the Scottish Government in Edinburgh have helped lead the campaign to save the Channel.

"Channel 4 must now be left alone to do what it does best - make innovative television, and provide fearless journalism.”

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for DCMS Jamie Stone MP said: “The threat to sell off Channel 4 was nothing more than a rash and reckless push from a Government that is well and truly out of ideas.

“The taxpayer cannot afford to have their money squandered every time a new Cabinet member comes up with another impetuous vanity project."

“It’s time for ministers to come clean on exactly how much taxpayers' money was wasted on these pointless and divisive plans.”