Are you a Slogger or a Rees-Mogger? This is an important question, and will probably be the subject of a BBC Newsnight special before too long, prior to being dramatised for the Big Screen as the blockbuster prequel, A Man of no Importance.
In case you didn’t already know this, Jacob Rees-Mogg is half oxbridge, half cat. He has very little in the way of a serious following beyond bored Westminster lobby correspondents and the odd diplodocus backbenchii, but for some reason he has been thrust to the fore by media manipulators.
There is, I suspect, a less than perverse political motive involved here. Call me wacky, but I see a Momentum plan to raise JR-M from the living dead, and then turn him into a sort of British Ku Klux Klan to be presented as a serious threat to the progress of all things, well, progressive. Owen Jones will then insist he be smashed, and the demonisation can be polished off by Alastair Campbell. Chemical Ally will pen an exposé revealing that Jake tucks his cassock into his underpants before making love to migrant sex-slave girls. “I made it all up,” Campers will later tell The One Show, with a mischievous wink. What a national treasure he is.
In the meantime, we can all look forward to Antifa surrounding Rees-Mogg’s home, identifying his Great Aunt’s gardener as a Nazi sympathiser, and then demanding a law to outlaw the Conservative Party as a protector of ScumfascistbigotLeaveracists.
A lot of smuggies on the Right like Jacob Rees-Mogg in the same way they once admired Boris Johnson as “just like us”. In fact, he is nothing like either us (whoever we are) or BoJo, but rather an example of what years ago we used to call Young Fogeys. My own view of him -predictably – is somewhat equivocal: I agree with his view that at times women use abortion to kill their foetus after having been obviously negligent, but I think his rejection of abortion even after rape smacks of religious inflexibility for the sake of it. He also carries with him that awful air of the bright privileged who lack the emotional intelligence to imagine life for others not as lucky as them.
By his own admission, Jake the Mogg is a walking vote-repellant who lost badly in three elections before winning a West Country seat in 2010. At that time, he was memorably described by one hack as “David Cameron’s worst nightmare”. Outside of the Tory silly circle, he plays very badly; thus for him to be chosen as Tory leader would be a decision to make Michael Foot’s 1980s elevation to the Labour crown seem a stroke of commonsense genius by comparison.
Of course, some Conservative MPs find him amusing (he has wit, without doubt) but that represents the sort of endearment reserved on the opposing benches for Dennis Skinner….prior to Bolsover Man voting for the Brexit Bill earlier this week, that is. But Jacob Rees-Mogg lacks any real Parliamentary Party franchise.
Another very important reason for that (beyond being electoral poison) is Rees-Mogg’s reputation for scrupulous honesty. Tribal politician or not, he is the sort of chap who just might see proof of crookery, and decide to throw one of his own to the local constabulary. This trait would not recommend him to Big Beasts like Hammond, Fallon, Hunt, Johnson and Green.
He is in turn thoroughly disliked as snooty and patronising by other Tories, two of whom told me last week that, were the Moggy to win the Party, they would leave it immediately.
So why is this non-starter being “tipped” as a runner in the post-May leadership stakes? Nowadays there could be 20 conspiracies or none, but I can at least throw light on three “facts” of which I’m reasonably sure. The first is that Jake has chums in the City (he founded a Capital management company and is highly regarded in the Square Mile) who are of the Hard Neolib persuasion, and have been chipping in to get him some news management help. It is a feature of his brand of Christianity that the Good Samaritan and Devils taking the hindmost sit quite happily together within his eclectic mind. And so – being braindead on the subject of consequences – the rabid financialisers want him up there at the Top Tory table demanding there be no turning back.
The second alleged certainty is that Mr Rees-Mogg made a cool four million quid from his company last year, and thus has a reasonable budget with which to lunch up amenable hacks at the Maily Telegraph.
However, I doubt if these factoids fully explain the media’s current fascination with a man who probably sees the fobwatch as an invention of Beelzebub. Carrying out a trawl over the weekend through UK news sites, I was struck by the degree to which it is the Progressive titles who seem the most keen to lift and separate what the Washington Examiner obliquely called “a cross between Trump and Kennedy” to imperial glory. That’s to say, it is the Guardian, Independent, Mirror and BBC who are lauding JM-R as “the grassroots favourite to succeed Theresa May”.
It’s not terribly subtle, and it’s very probably utter bollocks. The promotion of Latin Mass Man has two aims: first, to continue presenting the Tories as directly descended from inbred aristocrats, with Wat Corbyn cast as the only known antidote; and second, to create a bandwagon effect that sees the Conservative Party shoot itself 38 times in the head by electing Alec Douglas-Home2.
As a tactic, it has the Momentum fingerprint of savvy ideology, by which I mean very little real savvy at all.
We shall see. But for my money, the variously cynical, unhinged and playful proprietors of our mendacious media are enjoying a summer romance with Jacob Rees-Mogg. I rather fancy it will fizzle out and fall to earth along with the other lightweight leaves of Autumn.