Posts Tagged ‘‘Picnics on Vesuvius: Steps Towards the New Millennium’’

Your Unrepresentative Representative: Filibustering Jacob Rees-Mogg

April 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has added Jacob Rees-Mogg to the other Tories he has profiled in marginal seats. These have extreme right-wing views, which may not be shared, and very probably aren’t, by many of their constituents. Rees-Mogg is currently the MP for part of Bath And North-East Somerset. He is another true-blue, old Etonian toff, the son of William Rees-Mogg, the former Times and Independent columnist. I’ve posted a little piece on Rees-Mogg jnr’s extreme right-wing views when I put up Private Eye’s review of his father’s book, Picnics on Vesuvius: steps towards the New Millennium.

And his views are extreme. He attended one of the black tie gala dinners of the Traditional Britain Group, a far right outfit who stand for the destruction of the welfare state, privatisation of the NHS, restoration of the old feudal social hierarchy, and ban on immigration, particularly of Muslims. They got into Hope Not Hate’s news when it was revealed that UKIP’s vice president in Wales, Gillibrand, was a member. Among its other antics, the Group has made racist sneers and condemnations against Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, murdered by White youths in a vicious, racial attack, the MPs Nadhim Zahawi and Chuka Umunna. They have also put up films by and hosted speakers from the Front National in France and the British Democratic Party, a splinter group of the British National Front. One of the founders of that organisation is Andrew Brons, who, like others in the NF, used to goosestep in Nazi costume in the 1970s. Both Gillibrand and Rees-Mogg have distanced themselves from and denounced the racist comments made by the Traditional Britain Group.

Rees-Mogg himself strikes a curiously archaic figure, more at home in the high culture of Glyndebourne than in the more plebeian environs of much of contemporary British culture. Hence the title of Mike’s piece: Will North-East Somerset consign Jacob Rees-Mogg to the history he clearly represents? MIke’s piece begins

What on earth is Jacob Rees-Mogg doing in Parliament during the 21st century? He belongs in the 19th.

It’s hard to know where to start, when discussing this particular wet-wipe. Perhaps the best way to do so would be to point out that a new constituency had to be created before he could actually win a Parliamentary seat – and even that is only a Tory marginal, perhaps because The Guardian‘s criticism that this candidate’s highly privileged life ran against the Tories’ then-current narrative of social inclusion rang true with the electorate.

In 1997, Rees-Mogg attracted ridicule after canvassing a working-class neighbourhood of the Labour seat of Central Fife with his nanny. Rumours he had gone around the constituency in a Bentley were dismissed by Rees-Mogg as “scurrilous” – he insisted it had been a Mercedes.

In 2001, he stood for The Wrekin in Shropshire – and lost again, this time to Labour’s Peter Bradley, who managed a 0.95 per cent swing to Labour against the national trend of a 3.5 per cent swing to the Conservatives.

He finally achieved his ambition of a Parliamentary seat in 2010, in the newly-created North East Somerset constituency, with a majority of just 4,914. It seems he was not above a few dirty tricks to achieve this, however: In December 2009, a pamphlet which purported to show him talking to a local constituent and calling on the Government to “show more honesty” was criticised after it emerged that the “constituent” was a London-based employee of his investment firm.

Mike points out that his voting record shows that he is intent on following his own extreme right-wing views, even going against his own party whip in order to do so. He defied the whips when voting in the fixed-term parliaments bill, the 2011 motion on the referendum on the European Union, and the 2012 House of Lords reform bill.

He has also been responsible for filibustering several bills. This is deliberately talking out a private members bill to make sure that it does not get passed or discussed further. He did this to the Daylight Savings Bill of 2010-12 and the Sustainable Livestock Bill for those same years. Mike describes the rubbish he talked in order to block them. As an example of his archaic chauvinism, he declared that local authority figures with the power to issue on-the-spot fines should have to wear bowler hats. He also supports Zero Hours contracts. He has also been reported to the parliamentary standards commissioner for talking about tobacco, mining, and the oil and gas industries in parliament, without mentioning that he has significant personal interests in those industries through his partnership in a venture capital firm.

And his voting record shows that he has pretty much the same right-wing views as the others Mike has profiled. He’s in favour of cutting taxes for the rich, while making sure that the poor are hit by VAT. He supports the creeping privatisation of the NHS, the Bedroom Tax, cuts to welfare payments and the benefits cap. He also supported making local authorities responsible for making sure people could afford the council tax, and then cut that.

He also supported the various private free schools and academies, the increase in tuition fees and removal of state support for ‘A’ Level and Further Education students. He is also for further military involvement overseas, culling badgers, selling off Britain’s forests, secret courts, the expansion of state surveillance, and the police and crime commissioners. He also wants to replace trident with further nuclear weapons, opposes further EU integration, localism and the devolution of power to local authorities. He also disapproves and voted against same-sex marriage, and removing hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

This last should come as no surprise. He made it the central platform of his election campaign in central Fife. My guess is that it probably didn’t appeal much to his prospective constituents. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Nationalist vote actually went up after he did.

Mike’s article can be read at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/30/will-north-east-somerset-consign-jacob-rees-mogg-to-the-history-he-clearly-represents/

Private Eye’s Review of Rees-Mogg Snr’s ‘Picnics on Vesuvius’

March 31, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has posted a piece criticising the views and career to date of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory MP for part of BANES in Somerset. His constituency includes Bath, and, I think, part of Keynsham, a small town between there and Bristol.

Rees-Mogg is one of the new bugs, who came in with Cameron. Private Eye covered him in their ‘The New Boys’ on-off column. He’s a tall man, with impeccable patrician manners and the same air of condescension towards the lower orders. Which is just about everyone else. Mike cites a description of him as ‘the minister for the early 20th century’. It’s entirely apt. He cuts a strangely Edwardian figure, as if someone from the first few decades of the last century somehow fell through time to emerge nearly a century later, to be bemused by the strange technological devices, manners and ever-so-slightly vulgar social conventions.

He began his political career charging about Scotland, campaigning for the Tories in a Scots mining town. He announced that his platform was to convince the Scots that they vitally needed an unelected, aristocratic Second House. Clearly, his constituents and just about the rest of the country north of the border decided that they didn’t. No doubt he encountered some extremely forthright views while canvassing them.

He has gone to Glyndebourne, the great operatic festival in Kent. While there one sunny day, he got his wife and nanny to stop him getting sunburn by holding a book over his head. I’m as surprised that he actually wasn’t embarrassed to mention this as I am that he actually did it in the first place.

Rather more seriously, the extremity of his right-wing views are shown by his membership of the Traditional Britain group. This is another bunch of rightists, who stand for the restoration of the traditional feudal hierarchy, the absolute destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS, and absolutely no immigrants. And particularly not Muslims. They were last seen a few years ago on the fringes of UKIP’s annual conference. You also see them posting on the anti-Islam, ‘counter-jihadist’ site.

Young Jacob is the son of William Rees-Mogg, a former columnist for the Independent and then subsequently the Times. In 1992 Rees-Mogg pere published his magnificent octopus, Picnics on Vesuvius: Steps Towards the Millennium. It was then reviewed and suitably done over by Private Eye in their literary column. Here it is:

Scrambled Mogg

Just before Christmas, William Rees-Mogg wrote his last column for the Independent. Some bolshie sub gave it the derisive headline: ‘Is this the end of life as I know it?’ Henceforth his compositions will be appearing in the Times.

Senior staff at the Independent are heartbroken. From the launch of the paper, they have found him such a dependable guide to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. All you need to do, they discovered, is read Rees-Mogg’s columns carefully and then believe exactly the opposite. It never failed, they say tearfully. Now they don’t know what to think.

At least Rees-Mogg has left behind this treasury of past triumphs, so we can look back and admire the almost supernatural accuracy of his forecasting. On 22nd January 1992, for example, looking into Fergie’s tea leaves, Rees-Mogg wrote: ‘Nor do I believe for a moment that the duchess’s antics, innocent as they seem to be, are doing any damage to the monarchy. the question of the future of the crown is a non-question; it is all got up by the press.’ Put a few ‘nots’ in there, in the right places, and this was an almost uncannily far-sighted assessment.

Or again on 11 march 1991, when base rates were 13 per cent, Rees-Mogg warned ‘any further reduction in interest rates is likely to restart a major house boom’. Indeed! Or rather – not! For those lucky few sharing the secret of how to interpret Rees-Mogg, this was priceless information.

No less inspired was his evaluation of Robert Maxwell on 11 November 1991, concluding: ‘I am glad he was buried yesterday on the Mount of Olives, which is a place of grace. I shall remember him with affection …’ To the initiated, there could hardly have been a more savage condemnation.

Yet is not just for his power of prediction that we must revere Rees-Mogg. Rather, it is for the sheer grandeur of his style, the way he sweeps so impressively from the tiniest detail of his own life to the great questions of history, with scarcely a pause – in fact, let’s admit, with never a pause – between.

Who else would are begin an article (‘Landmarks in a Life Which Has Seen the Shadow of War Lifted’) like this: ‘On my tenth birthday, 14 July 1938, I was given an ice-cream cake with a cricket-bat and ball on top; it was big enough to be shared with the 30 boys in the my house at school. Four months before, Hitler had invaded Austria … Two months after my birthday, Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich’?

At the time, Rees-Mogg was probably alone in realizing which was the critical date of the three. Now we are all privileged to share that thrilling perspective – and there are many such moments here.

Truly, he is a man of destiny. ‘Destiny has a way of making itself,’ he says here in passing of his own marriage. She may have been his secretary, but it was meant.

It is this sublime confidence in himself, as a Mogg and a Wessex man, that permits him to take such long views, not just from year to year, but from century to century, millennium to millennium, into eternity indeed. For Rees-Mogg, it just all joins up.

So what does the great seer foresee? Good news! He foresees dooooom.

Yup, things are going to be OK! Who would have thought it?

According to Rees-Mogg, the world is facing imminent economic and social collapse, what with the slitty eyes beavering away, mugging getting out of hand, overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, Aids and all.

On Aids, says Rees-Mogg with a touch of justifiable pride, he has done ‘special work’. There’s a whole section about it here, and his conclusion is, as ever, that only religion can save us: ‘Christian morality is a strategy for survival’, you see. Condoms are useless. ‘The “unzip a condom” approach to the HIV epidemic reminds me of the filter-tip response to the issue of cigarette smoking and cancer,’ he says scornfully.

There may be those who will say that this remark shows that Rees-Mogg, for his wisdom, is a little out of touch with modern life. After all, they might observe, most condoms these days use the more comfortable button-fastening; zips are hardly ever seen.

But this is petty quibbling. Of the basic truth, that only becoming a Catholic right away can avert the end of the world, there can be no doubt. The millennium is coming, you see. ‘By the year 2000’ is Rees-Mogg’s favourite way of beginning a sentence. ‘As we approach 2000 years after Christ, this ancient human fear of some final calamity is not as unthinkable as it would have seemed 50 years ago,’ he says.

Only a ‘worldwide spiritual revolution’ can help. Only the Pope can resist Islam. Only saints, and sages from Somerset, can lead us now.

Travelling the country, he met some black people once. ‘I was particularly touched by the young black boy, with the scars of handcuffs on his wrists, who said to me: “It6 must be grand to be a lord.”‘

What he seems not to realize is that we all feel like this about him. Our gratitude is bottomless. For as he says, ‘saints are so important in the spread of religious belief. They profess their faith, but their conduct is the real evidence of its truth.’ Yes, indeed.

‘I am certain that we are all eternal spirits, with an eternal purpose, ‘Rees-Mogg tells us. ‘We are all like eggshells filled with spiritual realities we cannot begin to understand, filled indeed with the whole glory of Heaven.’

Some of us hardboiled, some soft, other poached, and a few are scrambled, but we all can, if we choose, entere the new year and eventually the next millennium, hand in hand with Lord Rees-Mogg.

From: Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, ed. and introduced by Francis Wheen (London: Verso 1994) 293-4.

I don’t share the writer’s hostility to religion, or their apparent hostility to Roman Catholicism, although that may just be an entirely suitable comment on Rees-Mogg’s own, rather sectarian religious beliefs, which clearly discount anyone else’s who isn’t a Roman Catholic. It does, however, show the lofty patricians tone Rees-Mogg’s views, and explains why Rees-Mogg junior is the way he is.

And with any luck, Rees-Mogg fils will be another Tory looking for a job after May 7th.