I’ve noticed that there’s a rising star shining within the Conservative Party, and to my surprise it’s Jacob Rees-Mogg, the whimsically anachronistic MP from North East Somerset. Recently he’s been gaining in popularity thanks to a grassroots online campaign called #Moggmentum, which seems to be an emerging right-wing equivalent of the kind of grassroots support that swept Jeremy Corbyn into power as leader of the opposition.
Where is his support coming from? Primarily from the Internet of course. He’s been a viral sensation among the right for about five years, attaining viral status through his use of the word “floccinaucinihilipilification”. Since then he’s won himself a loyal following through his gentlemanly attitude and his dry English wit. He also made his name as a supporter of the Leave campaign in last year’s referendum, and now you will find plenty of Rees-Mogg moments on YouTube, which individual views for each video typically reaching the tens of thousands. If that’s not enough, in the wake of Theresa May’s weakness, there’s an unofficial campaign to get Jacob Rees-Mogg to become leader of the Conservative Party, and thus become Prime Minister.
The momentum appears to be having results. It used to be that Boris Johnson or David Davis would be the most likely person to succeed Theresa May if she were to resign, or if a leadership contest were held soon. Recently, however, he is becoming the new favourite to potentially succeed Theresa May. The betting odds for him becoming leader have also gotten better. On PaddyPower he currently has a 10/1 chance of becoming leader (putting him in 4th place, behind Boris Johnson and Phillip Hammond), and according to Oddschecker, the outlook is similar across the board.
So, what do I think of him? I kind of like him. He composes himself very well in debates, he always speaks politely, and he has mostly sensible positions on the important issues, coming from a conservative background of course. He’s a breath of fresh air compared to most politicians in this country. A sane alternative to Chairman May, the Corbynistas (along with their meaner and uglier politics), and the establishment Tories (indeed, Rees-Mogg seems to have more in common with UKIP than the Tories). Compared to Theresa May, I think he would be a superior leader. He the “strong and stable” conservative that May acted like she was throughout her whole campaign, but unlike May, he can hold his own in a debate, and he’s willing to debate on national TV.
As for his political views, he seems to be a bit more conservative than the establishment conservatives. I firmly agree with him on Brexit, and I agree with his support of the DUP deal (which was ultimately based on pragmatism). He has also said that, on the issue of climate change, he would prefer solutions that don’t hinder technological progress, and the way see it, that could mean he’s open to letting the free market solve it. The main thing I disagree with him on is his opposition to the legalisation of gay marriage. He voted against the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act of 2013, and his main reasoning is simply because he was a Catholic, and he felt it was a matter of “what is sacrament”. It’s a stupid argument against gay marriage, but I’m willing to let his stance of gay marriage slide for two reasons. Firstly, gay marriage is an irrelevant topic because the argument is over. Gay marriage is legal in Britain and nobody has any real argument against it. Secondly, the way I see it, if Rees-Mogg does become leader of the Tories, he may eventually have to moderate his own public position on the matter.
I’m also concerned with the idea of another old-fashioned Etonian running the Tory party, which has been dogged by a nasty reputation as a party of Etonians for a long time, and David Cameron’s tenure only exacerbated this. However, I think Rees-Mogg will get by the same way he became a viral sensation, through the way he composes himself in debates and on public appearances. It also helps that he’s actually attracting potential voters. He may very well be the kryptonite to Jeremy Corbyn’s chances of victory in the next election, possibly because he talks to people instead of talking down to them. An actually right-wing leader of the party, which Rees-Mogg would be, would present an actual alternative to Corbynite socialism, one that the voters could believe in.
Of course, this is all presumption. In politics things have a nasty habit of changing when you least expect it. But I think it’s possible, and at any rate I would be in favour of Jacob Rees-Mogg leading the Tory party, not least because his growing popularity is spooking the left. Sites like The Canary and The New Statesman are apparently struggling to comprehend Rees-Mogg’s popularity, and are quick to demonise #Moggmentum as a “cult of personality”. And I suppose Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have a cult of personality. Corbyn has the biggest cult of personality in British politics. Nobody on the left dares question the messianic cult of personality surrounding Corbyn, but if somebody on the right has that kind of support, somehow that disturbs them. That tells me that Rees-Mogg is the perfect candidate to lead the Tory party. Not only does he actually believe in Brexit, but he also has far more personality than the Maybot could ever offer, and his popularity upsets the right amount of people. I don’t think it’s likely he’ll lead the party, but I hope this #Moggmentum lasts longer than just a few months.