Is Jacob Rees-Mogg Going to Be PM?
What if we went back in the eighteenth-century? How would politicians look or talk? What would they believe in and what would they say to you? Well, we’re very lucky and there’s no need to use our DeLorean time machine to find out, because we have a perfect example of such a gentleman among us. And his name is Jacob Rees-Mogg. This eighteenth-century specimen has been terrorising and entertaining commoners like you and I for the last month or so, tantalising us with the prospect of his potential candidacy for the leadership of the Conservative party and astonishing us with his conservative, anti-queer, anti-abortion anachronisms.
Who is Jacob Rees-Mogg?
Rees-Mogg is now considered to be one of the most popular candidates to become the next Prime Minister and Conservative leader. The Conservative MP who was educated in Eton and Oxford, is known for his eccentric looks, posh accent, conservative views and humorous parliamentary speeches, characterised by the invention of new words, silly subject matter and poetry recitation.
A remarkable story relates that in 1997, when he was canvassing as a Conservative for Central Fife, he was accompanied by the family nanny and toured the area in a Bentley, which he allegedly complained it was only a Mercedes.
Another example of his eccentricity is the lengthy and archaic names he has given to his six children. All the children have the names of saints and popes. The first child is nine-year-old Peter Theodore Alphege, the second is eight-year-old Mary Anne Charlotte Emma, the third is seven-year-old Thomas Wentworth Somerset Dunstan, the fourth is five-year-old Anselm Charles Fitzwilliam, the fifth is one-year-old Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius, and the sixth is Sixtus Dominic Boniface Christopher.
On 13 August, he claimed that any speculation about him running for the Conservative party’s leadership was “part of the media’s silly season.” He has claimed that he supports May and wants her to remain the leader of the Tory party. He also said: “I am a backbench MP. In the history of the prime ministership [it] has never gone to a backbench MP. It would be a vanity for me to be thinking about the leadership.” But, his popularity, his controversial views and eccentric persona are still dominating the news and gaining momentum.
Speaking of momentum: We all know that the activist group Momentum helped boost Corbyn’s popularity and introduce him to the younger generation. On 9 June, and after Theresa May failed to win an overall majority in the general election, an online petition was created calling Rees-Mogg to run for leader of the Conservative Party. A hashtag playing with the word momentum, “Moggmentum” was created and by the 8 July 13,000 signatures and £2,000 in donations were gathered, turning Rees-Mogg into the second favourite candidate for the Conservative leadership, behind David Davis.
The centre-right political blog ConservativeHome’s poll on 5 September put Rees-Mogg as the most favourite next leader with 23% of the votes.
There are Facebook pages devoted to Rees-Mogg and others that satirise him, and his recent Instagram page has become more popular than Theresa May’s one. However, the “Moggmentum” tag that was created to support him, was hijacked by his opponents and those who disagree with his social and political views. After Wednesday’s ITV interview with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid where Rees-Mogg said that he opposed gay marriage and abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, his opponents began tweeting GIFs of same-sex couples kissing.
During ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Rees-Mogg said that "I'm a Catholic and I take the teaching of the Catholic church seriously in matters of faith and morals. Marriage is a sacrament and the decision of what is a sacrament lies with the church not with Parliament." He added: "The teaching of the Catholic church is completely clear. I don't want to criticise people who lead lives that are different to mine but equally I don't want to divert from the historic teaching of the Catholic church."
Is he the solution to the Tory party’s impasse?
On the one hand, his extreme anachronistic views make Theresa May appear a more reliable and modern politician. On the other hand, however, his very eccentricity, his elegant appearance, always in tweed or double-breasted jackets, represent the past, but a nostalgic past that appeals to Brexiteers and right-wing populists.
According to the Huffington Post, “his appeal is obvious. In a political era that has snubbed conventional politicians and embraced the mavericks, Mogg certainly offers the Conservatives something that Theresa May never could. Partly, this is due to his political ‘authenticity’. In the same way that voters took to Corbyn’s sincerity and Trump’s frankness, Mogg’s candour might find an audience. His views are clear, uncompromising and bold. The fact that he never pretends otherwise has won him unlikely plaudits, including from Labour’s Jess Phillips who admitted that “he is no identikit politician; he is always completely authentic.”
Being authentic though, doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good politician or a positive remedy to the Conservative’s stagnation. As an extreme social conservative, who has a privileged lifestyle and who resides in a seventeenth-century manor, Rees-Mogg appears to be the least equipped politician to represent social realities and address current inequalities. He might entertain us ironically or we might “accept” his silly linguistic acrobatics and old-fashioned views cum grano salis, but the reality is that no one takes him seriously. As the Huffington Post article concludes, “If Jacob Rees-Mogg is their answer, the Tories are asking the wrong question.”