August 7, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
It shouldn’t really be a possibility. As a response to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and his anti-elitism and screeds against the establishment, Jacob Rees-Mogg surely can’t be the answer. The son of an Editor of the Times, went to Eton then Oxford, multi-millionaire from his own investment company, once went canvassing in Scotland with his nanny for company, has been called the ‘honourable member for the early 20th century’, voted against the gay marriage act in 2013 and then was a leading Brexiter. Really? But explaining ‘Moggmentum’ is easier if you watch this video, and in particular his answer to the question on austerity at 4:22:
Now, you don’t have to agree with what Rees-Mogg says. Focus more on the way he says it. There are no silly political soundbites, he doesn’t spend anytime attacking Labour. He merely takes the time to explain, like a grown-up, the consequences of a political decision that the country has to make – this time on raising public sector pay. Rees-Mogg’s point is that if public sector pay is to be increased there are three ways of funding it – raising taxes, borrowing more money, or re-assigning money from other areas of the economy (which could for instance be the foreign aid budget) and that the electorate has to choose how to do it. The idea that these decisions are painless for everyone is just not true, and if you listen closely to him, he doesn’t have to bother pointing out that simply saying, as Corbyn has, that all of the extra money to fund his policies can be taken from a small group of rich people, might not last for long (as, historically, shrinking the tax base doesn’t do).
If you watch the whole of it, you can see in the way he talks about Brexit and other areas the reason why Rees-Mogg has charmed everyone he has come across during his seven years in Parliament. He calmly explains things. I remember him coming to our school during the EU Referendum campaign and there were no ridiculous claims about the EU, just a simple explanation about how the difference in how laws are made and respected between the UK and the Continent makes legal integration very difficult. Over lunch and in his dealings with everyone in his two hours there, we could see why Mhairi Black, the fiery left-wing, very young SNP MP, admitted that “There is my boyfriend – Jacob Rees-Mogg. He’s my favourite. It’s the kind of place where, if you are reasonable with folk then they will soften a little.”
There are two reasons why Moggmentum might have some real traction. One is that if we ever find ourselves back in a world where the content of a person’s opinions does not define their character (e.g. where people accept that someone can be ‘wrong’ without being ‘wicked’), then Jacob Rees-Mogg’s politeness and innate decency and respect for everyone he comes across means that his background and opinions don’t stop him from being a successful leader of a political party.
But there is a deeper reason for this. The Conservative Manifesto for the 2017 election had many things wrong with it, but one of the things wrong was that it was trying to be radical, and dare I say it, a bit left-wing, when it was up against someone who was always going to out-radical and out left-wing them. Rees-Mogg offers traditional conservatism, backed by his encyclopaedic knowledge of our constitution and patrience in debate, that could fire up the Conservative base in the way Corbyn fires up some of the Labour base and has attracted others to that base.
It may seem crazy from a distance. But it IS an option.