Could this man lead the Tories?

The Week Middle East - - Front Page -

How did it hap­pen, asked Jeff Cim­mino in Na­tional Re­view. How did a dou­ble-bar­relled, Eton-ed­u­cated de­vout Catholic, who lives with his wife, six chil­dren and nanny in a Som­er­set manor house, sud­denly find him­self a con­tender for the Tory party lead­er­ship? Last week, a sur­vey of Con­ser­va­tive mem­bers sug­gested that Ja­cob Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Som­er­set – who has been de­scribed as “the Hon­ourable Mem­ber for the 18th cen­tury” – was the sec­ond favourite to suc­ceed Theresa May as leader, after Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis. Rees-Mogg has de­vel­oped an en­thu­si­as­tic fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia – a move­ment dubbed “Mog­g­men­tum”. The man him­self played down the spec­u­la­tion, said The Guardian. “Domine, non sum dignus,” he de­clared (“Lord, I am not wor­thy”). But he also con­spic­u­ously failed to rule out a fu­ture bid. “I’d vote for him like a shot,” said James Del­ing­pole in The Spec­ta­tor. Rees-Mogg is “po­lite, elo­quent, witty, well in­formed, co­her­ent, prin­ci­pled”, and clever – he made a for­tune in the City. He be­lieves “unashamedly” in the kind of real con­ser­va­tivism – a small state, fam­ily val­ues and low taxes – that the party’s lead­ers haven’t dared ad­vo­cate since the Thatcher era. He’s au­then­tic, un­like most politi­cians to­day, and vot­ers re­spond to that. Rees-Mogg is “a car­toon­ist’s idea of a pa­tri­cian”, said Sam Leith in the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard, and peo­ple seem to like that. He has given his chil­dren silly names – Anselm, Six­tus – and has never changed any of their nap­pies, “be­cause that’s the nanny’s job”. He tweets in Latin. He even quotes P.G. Wode­house when he’s fil­i­bus­ter­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal leg­is­la­tion. “It’s time to dig be­neath the non­sense about nan­nies and dou­ble-breasted py­ja­mas,” said Matthew Par­ris in The Times. “For the 21st cen­tury Con­ser­va­tive Party, Ja­cob Rees-Mogg would be hem­lock. His man­ners are per­fumed but his opin­ions are poi­son.” He is “an un­fail­ing, un­bend­ing, un­re­lent­ing re­ac­tionary”. On ev­ery is­sue from mar­riage to Brexit to cuts, he has “the opin­ions of a Colonel Blimp”. Be­fore we get “too car­ried away”, we should re­mem­ber that it’s Au­gust, said Katy Balls on her Spec­ta­tor blog – when silly sto­ries tend to spin out of con­trol. Even if Rees-Mogg were to aim for No. 10, the Tory lead­er­ship rules “would work against such a rogue can­di­date”: MPs get to whit­tle them down to the fi­nal two be­fore the mem­bers vote. Rees-Mogg knows this very well. But he also knows that “lead­er­ship talk” can in­crease the chance of get­ting a “plum” min­is­te­rial role.

The Tories’ “rogue can­di­date”

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