Have we collectively learnt nothing from Nigel Farage, or Brexit, or Donald Trump? Time and again people dismissed all of these as unlikely; something funny, that would never come to pass.
Nigel Farage was leading a party of “fruitcake and loonies” and would never see his life goal of leaving the EU come to pass; he was just a racist who always had a pint and a cigarette in his hand. The Brexit campaign was led by “BoJo” seen as a clownish figure and would only be supported by stupid racists. Donald Trump was a joke from the start, a racist billionaire playing at politics with silly ideas and a lack of any form of filter or sense; nobody in their right minds would make him President.
How wrong we were.
We dismissed these people and their ideas as jokes – figures of fun. They’d never come to pass, so we were led to believe, yet Nigel Farage and UKIP won nearly 13% of the vote – 4 million votes – in the 2015 general election. 52% of the voting public voted for Brexit in last year's referendum and Donald Trump won 306 electoral college votes out of 538, becoming leader of the free world.
Yet what have we learnt?
The idea of Jacob Rees-Mogg becoming Prime Minister is dismissed as impossible and as a joke rather than as a serious possibility. He himself has been treated as a figure of fun, someone who's old-fashioned appearance and ideas are to be laughed at, like Donald Trump before him, and “BoJo” before him, and Nigel Farage before him.
That's how he has been for years, appearing on Have I Got News for You numerous times, where he was always mocked for being totally out of place in the modern world. It is partly down to this TV exposure that Mogg is where he is now.
When a politician is presented as a figure of fun, someone to laugh at because of their persona rather than someone with serious political views, it begins to desensitise the public to those views, making them an acceptable cultural figure and growing their fan base.
However, many of these fans begin liking a figure not because of their ideas but their quirky, funny personality. Boris Johnson, for example, became the only elected Tory mayor of London by appealing to Labour voters as a gun character. Just look at the many pro-Mogg meme pages based around his personality.
When this occurs a figure’s potentially dangerous views and policies are, at best forgotten amongst the fun, or at worst ignored by doting fans. That is exactly what has happened with Jacob Rees-Mogg.
His interview with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain ought to be a wake up call that he is not a joke. It should hardly be surprising that the so called MP for the 18th century holds outdated views and yet many people were shocked. That was because his dangerous views have been hidden by a quirky personality.
He is currently the Tory memberships favourite potential leader and he is a threat to the liberal rights we all ought to cherish. In Britain in 2017 the idea that all people should have the same rights regardless of who they love should not be up for debate. Neither should a woman's right to choose if she is ready to have a baby, especially if raped.
Yet somehow a man who has a very real chance of becoming PM is questioning these things and we're still laughing, thinking he could never do well. Neither could Nigel Farage, or Brexit (or Foreign Secretary Johnson), or President Trump.
All of the cited examples show us that laughing at a politician or an idea just further alienates and entrenches those who genuinely support that figure and their views, making them feel oppressed and excluded, and just reinforcing their views. For them to change their minds they must be engaged with and debated against properly, and treated like real people with real views and concerns.
Mogg is a serious threat to liberal values in this country, and to the idea that nobody should have someone else's religious values forced upon them. And his record on economic issues, and his status as a Thatcherite and former investment banker who thinks we could cut regulations protecting people and the environment suggest he will carry on the cuts and rolling back of the welfare state.
The idea of a Mogg government should make anyone who believes in religious and social freedom and a modern economy that works for the working and middle class, not to mention those who believe in Britain playing it’s part in improving the world through foreign aid and decent environmental laws, afraid.
Making him into a joke will only make his becoming Prime Minister more likely. We must ensure everyone knows that he is a very real threat by talking about his ideas and working to engage with and discredit these ideas in serious debate.