Despite claiming he has too many children to ever become the Prime Minister, Moggmentum continued at pace this week with former Smith Square resident Jacob Rees-Mogg being installed as the bookies favourite to succeed Theresa May at No.10.
Rees-Mogg’s transformation from slightly quaint backbencher to leadership candidate has been as surprising as it has swift. Although elected in 2010, his early years as an MP were marked only by a developing reputation for being a very old fashioned but polite individual who was often driven to canvassing sessions by his family nanny. Rees-Mogg has also eschewed the very traditional Tory leadership option of taking ministerial office; he has never even held even the most junior ministerial position.
However, since 2016’s EU Referendum Rees-Mogg has skillfully managed to replace Boris Johnson as Mr Chief Brexit, and in doing so has made sure he is never out of the political news. This week the Mogg Man hit the headlines as: the victim of a masked protest and scuffle at the University of West England, someone who should be slung out of the Conservative Party (more on this later), and for accusing civil servants of fiddling the figures on Brexit economic forecasts. He also appeared outside No.10 Downing Street presenting a Daily Express petition against foreign aid spending.
Whilst none of these things may seem particularly noteworthy to the general public, they are sure to appeal to the Tory grassroots. A Brexit-pushing, yob-confronting, foreign aid hating leader may be exactly the tonic Conservative members need after Theresa May’s apparently ‘dull dull dull’ premiership. But, unfortunately the voters are unlikely to agree. Is there another way?
A full 596 days (or 14,304 hours/858,240 minutes) have passed since the Brexit referendum of the 23 June 2016. Yet this week (February 2018) the Cabinet held two meetings, running at over five hours in total, to attempt to thrash out an agreement and resolve some fairly bitter disputes about what the country’s future is actually likely to look like once we leave the European Union.
The meetings were described as the moment that the government’s position on our future relationship with the EU would crystallise. But, despite assurances that the meetings were “very constructive”, it was confirmed yesterday that the Cabinet would be going on an away day to Chequers, the country home of the Prime Minister, to put the disagreement to bed once and for all.
The battle lines have not moved much. Those pushing for a softer Brexit, Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond and co, are arguing for a closer alignment to the EU after we leave. Team Brexit, chiefly Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, want a complete separation at the earliest possible opportunity.
Waters were muddied further when, directly after one of the Brexit sessions, Theresa May met with the Japanese Ambassador and representatives from Japan’s major employers, including Nissan, Toyota and Honda. They jointly issued a timely, or not timely depending on your preference, warning that Britain must retain access to Europe post-Brexit or risk their withdrawal.
The indecision surrounding all things Brexit is filtering down in to some rather difficult messaging. Government Minister Greg Hands had the misfortune of finding this out at the hands of Andrew Neil this week. Ouch.
Red lines and missing spines
One Conservative deeply unhappy with the course of HMS Brexit this week was Anna Soubry, Member of Parliament for Broxtowe, who gave us a harrowing insight into the health of Theresa May, revealing that the stricken PM doesn’t actually have a spine. Ms Soubry was quick to prescribe a therapeutic exercise regime: “grow some, get a spine, stiffen up, stand up”.
According to Soubry and the remain faction of Conservative backbenchers, the PM is supposedly “in hock” to a shadowy cabal of 35 Brexiteers. Ms Soubry claims that figures such as Boris Johnson are holding Theresa May and the Party hostage. If Mr Johnson really is a subtle and calculating puppet master he has certainly been disguising it brilliantly.
One person not being held hostage is Ms Soubry herself, who claims she will be forced to leave the Tories unless the PM takes action.
Also in Ms Soubry’s sights is the aforementioned Jacob Rees-Mogg, who along with Mr Johnson she accused of not being a ‘real’ Conservative, despite Mr Rees-Mogg being perhaps the most stereotypical representation of the Tories imaginable. According to Soubry, it is high time that Rees-Mogg and his ilk were “slung out”.
100 years of women’s suffrage
This week, the nation celebrated 100 years since women were given the right to vote – though only women over 30 and meeting certain property requirements. For the true centenary, when all women over 21 got the vote putting them in parity with men, we’ll have to wait a bit longer, 2028 to be exact.
Many celebrations were held across the UK. Self-professed “proud feminist” and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, ensured the capital celebrated women’s suffrage with a big exhibition. This was part of the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, a year-long, London-wide drive to raise awareness of women’s contributions to the capital. But whilst the Mayor might have been celebrating, the equality memo failed to filter down to all of his Transport for London staff.
Our second female Prime Minister also celebrated the day with her female MP colleagues, whilst simultaneously fighting off attacks from her male front and backbenchers. During her speech in Manchester on Tuesday, it was hard to miss the dig at her quarrelling male cabinet members. Women, she said, have a different way of doing politics, which involves listening and teamwork, as opposed to broadcasting own views and opinions.
Perhaps as more women rise to prominence in the political world, there will be less talk of who has the biggest button. We can only hope.
Souvenir of the week
In response to criticisms of poor child-rearing after he declared he had never changed a nappy, Jacob Rees-Mogg released a video of some fine parenting this week. Teaching his son how to say Brexit.