Could this man lead the Tories?
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”