Only in the bizarre and unsettling world of Brexit Britain could a guy like Jacob Rees-Mogg become a celebrity. His rise in popularity from obscure southern English MP to cult figure is symptomatic of the way in which the extremists have usurped the moderates in the Conservative Party. It is also reveals a lot about the public’s views of seemingly harmless politicians.
I have some sympathy for Sixtus Dominic Boniface Christopher, who will no doubt spend quite a lot of his life correcting people on his name (Sixtus is bad enough, but Boniface?). Although my sympathy only goes so far – being the son of a wealthy and well-connected Conservative MP will probably take the sting out of any bullying he’ll get at school. And he can always take comfort in the fact that he isn’t alone, being the brother of Anselm Charles Fitzwilliam and Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius.
Sixtus’s arrival was announced in a post on Instagram, which Mogg recently joined in order to satisfying the demands of his burgeoning number of fans (‘We’ve put up some jolly photographs,’ he told the BBC, ‘you hear a lot about unpleasantness but it’s reassuring that there’s a lighter touch’). Mogg himself pops up on television a lot these days, commenting judiciously about Brexit and other matters, often with reference to parliamentary debates that took place 170 years ago, all while giving the impression that he was actually there at the time (he is younger than David Cameron).
The son of a former Times editor and inevitably the product of the public-school system, Mogg represents one of those southern English seats that would elect a dead parrot if it stood as the Conservative candidate, and I often think a dead parrot would be more effective. Mogg’s only real talent, apart from impregnating his wife, is for wasting time. He once filibustered a bill concerning agriculture by wittering on about poetry, the battle of Agincourt and a fictional pig from a P.G. Wodehouse novel (that he is fond of Wodehouse suggests he is aware of the posh twit image he projects, and that it is to a certain extent an image put on only for the cameras). Much like that other totemic national waste of space, Boris Johnson, Mogg is fond of dropping obscure words into everyday parlance, making it into the record books with the use of ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ - the habit of estimating something as worthless, appropriately enough.
I would give a lot to understand why anyone thinks Mogg is impressive or even amusing. One of the things that most disgusts me about the Tories is how they pose as English gentlemen, claiming to represent the best of their nation, something that the last few years have exposed as completely untrue. During the referendum campaign men such as Mogg lied hysterically to their citizens and put the country’s interests at risk. His authoritarian side came out when he demanded Mark Carney be fired for doing his job and warning of a recession after Brexit, while his colleagues Johnson and Michael Gove irresponsibly promised a bright new future for Britain once we’d left the world’s largest trading market. All the while, they have been sucking the balls of Donald Trump, a man who would disgust any true English gentleman, in the most abject way. It says quite a lot about Mogg that he refused to support the Neocon Clinton because she was, in his view, ‘a dangerously left-wing extremist.’
Perhaps it is just the Glaswegian in me that treats upper-class Englishman with natural suspicion, but I think there is a wider point to be made here. For so long, the majority of our politicians have been so intensely afraid of appearing abnormal or ‘out of touch’ that they adopted hyper-bland looks and attitudes, speaking, acting and even looking alike.
So when boorish creep like Mogg comes along he is treated as somehow virtuous just because he is unusual. A fickle media is naturally attracted to the abnormality, giving such men publicity they wouldn’t otherwise deserve. In recent years, anomalous politicians such as Mogg, Johnson, Farage, Jeremy Corbyn and Alex Salmond have thrived because people have found their uniqueness endearing, falseness believing them to be harmless while giving them the opportunity to forward their campaigns to change politics very radically. Too much time is spent marvelling at their eccentricities while not enough time is spent scrutinising their views. Ask yourself, would Brexit really have happened had clowns such as Boris or Farage been starved of the oxygen of publicity years ago?
Enjoy your memes of Mogg slouching in the Commons and laugh all you want at his poor children’s names – I’m laughing with you. But don’t forget he and other ‘loveable rogues’ in politics have a serious agenda, and know any attention they get can only help them foist their vision on an unsuspecting public.