I thought some peeps might like to get their teeth into this article from today's Sunday Times.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, an English Trump but better at Latin
Chris Lange-KuettnerAugust 13 2017, 12:01am,
As Moggmentum surges, the historian Tim Newark grills his fogeyish back-bench Tory friend about his leadership plans over plum crumble
Jacob Rees-Mogg came round for lunch with us last week in Bath, a suitable location for this politician dubbed “MP for the 18th century”. As it was the summer recess I thought he might have loosened his top button a little but no: he arrived impeccably dressed in a double-breasted suit with a shirt and tie. Rees-Mogg says he has “never worn a pair of jeans”.
Charming and polite throughout lunch, he praised the plum crumble my wife made for him, knowing his delight in traditional British food.
Rees-Mogg is exactly as you would imagine him to be. And these days authenticity is the major currency of any politician with eyes on high office. Only recently taking to Twitter with a Latin maxim, he gets more “likes” and “shares” for his tweets than any cabinet member, including the prime minister.
Fiercely loyal to Theresa May so long as she remains Conservative Party leader, he strikes a growing number of Tory backbenchers as just too good to be left on the back benches. Here is a man with a sharp intellect who serves on the Treasury select committee and gave Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, a hard time about his anti-Brexit advice before the referendum.
To his fans Rees-Mogg is straight talking, has disarming humour, is good on television, unflinchingly patriotic and a successful businessman from a privileged background who nevertheless understands the concerns of ordinary men and women. Like an English version of Donald Trump but with a better grasp of Latin. Does he see any similarity?
Rees-Mogg answers carefully and says that he fully understands the message of the populist revolution in 2016 that rocked the ruling classes on both sides of the Atlantic. “The governing elite in both the US and the UK,” he said, “had come to the conclusion that the only reason that people wouldn’t do what they said is because they didn’t understand.
“You see this in the shockingly condescending views expressed by some Remoaners who think that the people that voted for Brexit were all stupid. It’s a very odd way of looking at things if you believe in democracy.”
Rees-Mogg said serving the grassroots lies at the heart of his political philosophy: “As a constituency MP I am always seeking to represent the people remote from the centres of power, rather than the interests of lobby groups.”
Asked why he cares so much about Brexit, he said it is “all about democracy. Can the British people have the government that they want?
“The problem with the European Union is we can be outvoted by a qualified majority vote and therefore laws can be passed that the British people have not only not consented to but have opposed.”
Was he upset that May laughed at the suggestion of him being in the cabinet? If he is he does not show it, rebuffing the question with good humour: “I’m a back-bench MP. I’m supporting Theresa May. My ambition is to be re-elected in North East Somerset. It would be unrealistic of me to have further ambitions.”
His recent interventions suggest otherwise. Rees-Mogg put the chancellor in his place over collective cabinet responsibility and slapped down a proposal from James Chapman, a former aide to David Davis and George Osborne, for a new “Democrats” anti-Brexit party.
With his experience in business and the City, is Rees-Mogg well placed to take on the role of chancellor in due course — like a Boris with financial brains? He sidestepped the question: “I don’t think it’s going to be offered.”
Certainly, some part of the Conservative grassroots is all agog with the thought of him standing as leader when the time is right. “Cometh the hour, cometh the Mogg” is a recurring line. But others — including the former Conservative MP Matthew Parris — are not so keen.
In his Times column yesterday Parris described Rees-Mogg’s views on moral, social, sexual and reproductive issues as “brute moral conservative” and warned that electing him as leader would kill off the “broad-church Conservative Party”.
Does Rees-Mogg even have the hunger for high political office? Recently celebrating the birth of his sixth child, naturally named Sixtus, he rejoices in his large family, lives in a mansion dating back to 1600 deep in the Somerset countryside and has amassed a fortune through his Somerset Capital Management business.
Having entered the Commons only in 2010, Rees-Mogg claims repeatedly that he has already attained his highest ambition of being MP for North East Somerset.
“The local party is part of who I am and what I am,” he insists. But surely he wants to ride the Moggmentum into a cabinet post?
“I’m very interested in political ideas, developing Conservative thinking, and I’m very keen that we should have a positive message for Conservatism,” he said.
“Our last manifesto was much too defensive and much too managerial. That was why we went from having such a strong lead in the polls to having a very marginal election victory . . . The campaign did not succeed. You can have a role in that without holding great office.”
Will he never throw his hat into the ring of a future leadership election?
“I think if I threw my hat in the ring, my hat would be thrown back at me pretty quickly,” he said.
Nor will he be drawn on who should be the next party leader. “There are so many people that would be capable of doing it,” he said, “and who it ends up being, as with Mrs May getting it, is a matter of luck as anything.”
Surely he wants a Brexiteer? “By the time Mrs May finally decides to become a countess and go to the House of Lords,” he reassures me, “we’ll have long since left the European Union.”
Rees-Mogg, 48, was born in Hammersmith, west London. His father was The Times editor William Rees-Mogg. The family has long ties with Somerset thanks to owning local coalmines.
Educated at Eton, he read history at Trinity College, Oxford but regrets not studying classics: “All the really clever people do that and a 2:1 in classics is worth a first in PPE.”
He did not follow his father into journalism: “My father was much better at it than I was ever going to be so I thought I could only ever fail by comparison.”
Instead he chose a career in the City, working in emerging markets for Lloyd George Management, which included a stint in Hong Kong before setting up his own investment business in 2007.
His leisure time is dominated by his large family: “It’s the most important thing. I’ve got six lovely, delightful children. I’m very lucky. I have a wonderful wife who looks after us all.”
They are working their way through the James Bond films: “We’re on Octopussy at the moment, had Live and Let Die a couple of nights ago.
“This might not be the most fashionable view — but then I’m not known for my fashion — but I think the late Sir Roger Moore is unquestionably the best James Bond.”
It seems an apt choice for Rees-Mogg. Not the action-packed aggression of Daniel Craig but the self-deprecating, humorous Bond — who ended up having the longest 007 career.
Tim Newark is a historian and the author of Protest Vote: How Mainstream Parties Lost the Plot (Gibson Square, £8.99)
● Gay marriage
● Raising welfare benefits
● Smoking ban in private vehicles where a child is present
● A 2016 investigation into the Iraq War
● Trident, bedroom tax and academies
● Stricter asylum systems and a stronger enforcement of immigration rules
● Mass retention of data from communications and surveillance
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