Who’s ready for Rees-Mogg?
Whisper it quietly but people are slowly but surely starting to use the words “Rees-Mogg” and ‘Prime Minister’ in the same sentence. The odds on his becoming so have been slashed in recent weeks, making a Rees-Mogg premiership more likely than so-called big hitters such as Sajid Javid and Michael Gove. Is he likely to win, or even to run? Probably not. Although that means little coming from somebody like myself who thought Britain would stay in the EU, Clinton would beat Trump, and May would win a majority in June. However, the reasons for his popularity are well worth discussing.
He has much in common, absurd as it seems, with Jeremy Corbyn. Though the two probably like to think of themselves as polar opposites, they both make political capital out of being perceived as genuine. Just as people readily believe Corbyn’s image as a kindly old Grandpa who digs his allotment and makes jam, so too do they believe Rees-Mogg’s image as a man born in the wrong century. His colleagues in Parliament don’t call him the ‘Minister for the 1800s’ for nothing. Paradoxically it is this side to his character that has made him such a social media star. The Facebook page “Middle class memes for Rees Moggian teens” has over thirty-five thousand likes and a separate page called ‘ready for Rees Mogg’ contains a petition for him to become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. It is easy to write these off as a joke, yet the reasons for his popularity are I suspect deeper than his simple comedic value.
Several aspects explain the seemingly irresistible rise of Jacob Rees-Mogg. One such is his impeccable politeness, something which makes him able to form seemingly unlikely friendships with MPs of all persuasions (his Channel 4 features with the Labour MP Jess Phillips are well worth a watch if you like that sort of thing). In an age of increasingly polarised political discourse this is clearly to his credit, even if the fact it comes as a surprise to people is depressing. Furthermore he is fiercely independent, speaking his mind eloquently whenever interviewed in a refreshing change from depressingly “on message” party spokespeople. These traits seem to endear him not only to those on the right, to whom his appeal is self-explanatory, but to people of all political persuasions. It may explain why his vote share has increased in each of the three general elections he has fought in his constituency of North-East Somerset. Finally, it is worth dwelling on his popularity among Conservatives. This is not, as many believe, based simply around his ability to seem to many a caricature of a Tory MP. Anyone who watches him discuss any issue at length will notice his ability to convey a profoundly Conservative message in a way which is genuine, heartfelt and appealing. He is comfortable in his own skin and never seems to be apologising for any views he holds. After a dire election campaign which failed to ignite any passion among either the party’s base or the wider electorate, these attributes seem all the more appealing.
(Image courtesy of Tatler)