Belfast Telegraph

Rees-Mogg's a walking, talking caricature of poshness, but Mumsnet could propel him all the way to Number 10

By Grace Dent

Jacob Rees-Mogg, currently second favourite to take over leadership of the Conservative party, is a politician I've watched with involuntary wonderment for over a decade. This is because, day-to-day, Rees-Mogg is quite impossible not to follow in jovial befuddlement. For this purpose, I understand the growing #moggmentum which has placed a man who appears on Question Time resembling a living, breathing Bash Street Kids 'posho' caricature as a frontrunner to save the Tories from a political quagmire.

Mogg is a roaming Monty Python cameo; all briefcase, flappy legs and simmering patriarchal righteousness. He is a Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer-style riff on how our class system thrives, with his six children furnished with the names of 8th Century saints and Anglo-Saxon bishops.

Rees-Mogg says he has never changed a nappy. In 2014 he went canvassing with his former nanny, Veronica, the woman who used to wipe his own bottom. At this point, again, as we tiptoe through the hilarity and comedic open goals, I must underline that hilarious old Moggy, the columnist's gift, the living meme, is now ahead in the leadership race of one-time favourite Boris Johnson.

Interestingly, Johnson, a fellow funny outsider turned stalking horse, won hearts with his ability to seem utterly harmless. Snuggly, even. But Rees-Mogg has no appetite for this. The "Mogg doesn't do nappies" comment might have finished any other politician, but from his mouth seems both feasible and thoroughly moot.

Right now, Rees-Mogg feels to many Tories a safer bet than Chancellor Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. In fact, Rees-Mogg's fiercest rival presently is David Davis, with a 20% implied chance of victory versus Rees-Mogg's 12%, according to odds aggregator BetData.

The political landscape is auspiciously porridgy of late. Jeremy Corbyn's X Factor-style journey from scruffy-hemmed yoghurt-knitter to put-together, soundbite-delivering cult act has proven all tangents are viable. And over on Mumsnet #moggmentum is growing.

"He's just so deliciously of a type, "was a Mogg-supporting quote I read recently. If Mumsnet love Rees-Mogg, he's on to a good thing. Never underestimate the power of Mumsnet to mess with the political status quo.

Of course, the problem with making you laugh about a subject that makes me laugh is that we normalise the threat of yesteryear men like Rees-Mogg. He has tickled his way to 36,000 Instagram followers, and a "Ready for Rees-Mogg" campaign petition stands at over 20,000 signatures. In a Tory landscape which is turning off the under-50s in droves, here comes a dry-humoured cartoon Conservative colossus who will look Owen Jones straight in the eye and tell him: "I'm not in favour of new-age drippiness".

Words like these are balm to voters who feel dearly that what we need right now in post-Brexit Britain are strong, clear, strident thoughts. Theresa May, it should be noted, made considerable headway from June 2016 through to the general election with similar promises of clear-eyed, non-emotional thinking. This lasted until the campaign trail, where the one, singular, full-throated policy May felt confident to give voice to transpired to be bringing back fox-hunting.

The re-legalisation of bloodsports was the incendiary topic on virtually no-one's mind at that point. Terrorism, the European chaos, growing homeland religious and racial intolerance, yes. Not reopening the wounds of a bygone Nineties hot topic that pits family against family, town against country.

If Rees-Mogg gains power, it will be curious to observe the "non-drippy" hobby-horse topics he may apply himself to, rather than tackle the roaring bin fire which is Brexit. Rees-Mogg is against same-sex marriage, just like his DUP chums. He wants to repeal the Human Rights Act. He thinks zero-hours contracts are a favourable thing and seemingly has no interest or urgency on climate change.

With six children to date, I can only guess haphazardly at his beliefs on contraception.

"I've made no pretence to be a modern man, at all, ever", he told Nigel Farage in an interview last week. To steal and meddle with Maya Angelou, it feels that Rees-Mogg is a person telling us clearly who he is. It's time that we believed him.

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