Moggmentum Signals the Tory Party’s Retreat to the Reactionary Right
This summer we have witnessed the perplexing rise of #Moggmentum - the movement to crown Jacob Rees-Mogg as the next Tory Party leader.
Rees-Mogg, who was elected as the Conservative MP for North East Somerset in 2010, pledges his allegiance to Theresa May. But like a young cardinal voting for an old pope, he can bide his time. May is a hopeless PM. It is a matter of not if, but when she steps down and triggers a leadership contest that will in turn lead to calls for another snap general election.
Rees-Mogg is, apparently, so uncommitted to becoming PM that he has written for The Telegraph outlining his vision for the Tory Party. With the ConservativeHome website ranking him as the second favourite to succeed May, all the signs point to Rees-Mogg planning a leadership campaign.
Moggmentum is a play on Momentum, the champions of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Like Corbyn before him, Rees-Mogg is a backbencher with no ministerial experience.
An Eton and Oxford-educated former investment banker, Rees-Mogg takes pride in his wealth with the demeanour and Latin-peppered vocabulary of an Evelyn Waugh character. He has become a living caricature of a Tory politician.
The Moggites supposedly think that this would be an asset, expecting their man’s eccentric and maverick nature to win over younger votes like Corbyn has. This might be true amongst young Tories, but as a wider premise it totally misses the point.
There is a parallel between the Trump and Rees-Mogg fandoms
According to YouGov polling, the primary reason for Labour’s unexpectedly impressive performance at the general election was not Corbyn, but the social democratic, anti-austerity policies in the party’s manifesto. As Labour ekes out a poll lead over the Tories, Corbyn has only just become a preferred PM to May.
Most Labour voters in 2017 voted to Remain in the EU in 2016, and many of the 18 to 24 year-olds chanting “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!” will have been amongst the 73% of their age bracket who opposed Brexit. Commitment to a “Soft Brexit” assisted in Corbyn’s glorious defeat.
Between Rees-Mogg and Labour voters, especially the young, there is an ocean of clear blue water. Rees-Mogg’s parliamentary record shows that he has consistently backed austerity policies, while demanding urgent tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. He has defended zero-hour contracts and blocked measures to improve housing standards, particularly damning in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire disaster.
Rees-Mogg, the Brexiter’s Brexiter, lobbies for a confrontational approach towards EU negotiations and views the scenario of leaving with no deal as a positive one.
A traditionalist Catholic, Rees-Mogg opposed legalising same-sex marriage on the confusing basis of “religious freedom” and would scrap measures to protect human rights and the environment. He called for a Tory-UKIP electoral pact, wanting to anoint Nigel Farage as Deputy PM.
Rees-Mogg is unusual amongst MPs in his endorsement of President Donald Trump, praising his right-wing populist agenda.
There is a parallel between the Trump and Rees-Mogg fandoms, including an affinity for internet memes. YouTube videos accompanying Rees-Mogg with a gangster rap soundtrack are admittedly quite funny but the comment sections on Rees-Mogg clips provide a sinister insight into the reactionary tendencies within Moggmentum.
Moggite commenters complain about the “destruction” of tradition and the homogenous ethnic makeup of Britain, heralding Rees-Mogg as a gentleman of messianic stature who will restore the nation to its former glory.
Their avatars feature the likes of Enoch Powell and Pepe the Frog, the mascot of the alt-right that loves Trump for his opposition to leftist “political correctness”.
They are now in government yet once again in exile. Retreating to Moggmentum and losing ground to Labour
In 2013 Rees-Mogg delivered a speech to the Traditional Britain Group, a racist organisation that calls for the mass “repatriation” of non-white Britons. He apologised for this error, but the fact he was invited in the first place speaks volumes.
Rees-Mogg seems to have become the British equivalent of Trump, his amusingly toffish persona becoming the urbane face for a much darker political trend.
Tory MPs will probably prefer a more obvious leader like Brexit Secretary David Davis. But again, the unlikely similarity between Rees-Mogg and Corbyn could continue.
Perhaps if Rees-Mogg softened his Thatcherite tendencies, and pitched himself as a winning candidate with his signature elocution, then enough MPs would vote for him to go through to the membership round of voting. His call for housebuilding in response to Grenfell shows some One Nation Tory instincts.
Then it would be up to the party members to decide. The government is being forced to backtrack on the hardness of Brexit, the most important issue to Tory voters. Older Leave voters, most likely to be Tories, are willing to inflict economic harm to ensure EU withdrawal. On Brexit Rees-Mogg is unwavering.
After their devastating loss in 1997, the Tories selected Euroscepticism over Ken Clarke then, in 2001, the hard-right Iain Duncan Smith to lead them through the wilderness.
They are now in government yet once again in exile. Retreating to Moggmentum and losing ground to Labour, they have no fresh ideas to address the problems of modern Britain.
A Corbyn versus Rees-Mogg general election would, therefore, surely produce the biggest Commons majority for Labour since the days of Tony Blair.
About the author
Jacob Richardson began his career with Disclaimer and writes on culture, politics and society. Politically he is a democratic socialist and Labour Party supporter. His other interests include cinema, psychoanalysis and professional wrestling.
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