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A politician holds true to his religious beliefs – so what?

A politician holds true to his religious beliefs – so what?

It’s a strange paradox of the world we now live in. We spend all of our lives hearing about how we need more politicians who stay true to their principles and refuse to simply sway with public opinion. Then, when one pops their head above the parapet to defend their beliefs, a full-blown media witch hunt ensues.

Do I agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg that all abortion is wrong? No. Do I agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg that same sex marriage should be at the discretion of the church, not the state? No. Do I agree with the Catholic Church that gay sex is a sin? No.

So what?

I must have missed the memo whereby personal morality became a matter of state, and something that everyone is invested in. The Orwell comparison about the society we live in is an awfully tired one, but I can’t help feeling that Rees-Mogg is just the latest public figure to fall victim to the ‘Wrongthink’ that is used to tear anyone down who is contrarian in their outlook.

I didn’t see Mogg trumpeting the abolition of same sex marriage on Good Morning Britain, I also didn’t see him demanding a change to the abortion laws. He said that people are protected by UK law and indicated no interest in changing that.

So seriously, what’s the story? He isn’t pushing his opinions or morality on anybody else, so who are we to tell him what to think?

If you want to pull his voting record to shreds then go for it, it’s not hard to find plenty on welfare and benefits and on landlords, but why should someone’s personal morality be on trial if they are not trying to enforce it on others?

All this is before we even get into the fact that Catholicism has an estimated 1.2 billion followers around the world. Why shouldn’t it have a place in politics? He’s not speaking for a neo-Nazi minority. Should we ban the bible because Twitter disagrees with what it says? Great idea. And then what? The Koran opposes homosexuality so will we be removing Sadiq Khan as London Mayor for good measure?

We seem to be descending into a manic state whereby anybody who strays from approved mainstream ideology is destined to be torn to shreds.

This whole episode stinks of Tim Farron. Another man who held private beliefs that were at odds with some his party policies, and were used as a stick to beat him with.

Spare me the outrage and the sanctimony. All of the identity politics that is shoved into our faces day in day out has become utterly tedious. But it shows no sign of abating. So roll up, roll up, come and see who will be next on the crucifix of ‘public opinion’.

Could Jacob Rees-Mogg really be the saviour of the Conservative Party?

Two years ago, the idea that a man famed for taking his nanny canvassing, using the word ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ in the House of Commons, and who is regularly referred to as ‘the honourable member for the early twentieth century, could become the next Conservative Party Leader would have been met with derision. But that was before the surprising ascendency of Trump, Macron and Corbyn. Tellingly, the bookies now have Jacob Rees-Mogg as more likely to become the next Conservative Party leader than Boris Johnson and Ruth Davidson, and there has been a flurry of ‘Moggmentum’ articles both for and against his candidacy show just how seriously many are taking the idea.

Critics of Rees-Mogg ironically highlight many of the traits that many Conservative Party activists actually find appealing: he uncompromisingly supports Brexit and the free market (he recently called for the abolition of stamp duty, something many of his detractors jumped on as proof that he is ‘for the rich’), he isn’t afraid to voice unpopular opinions, and doesn’t attempt to hide his privileged roots. In fact, it’s this authenticity which, like Corbyn, is the key to his popularity. As James Delingpole writes in The Spectator “He’s quick on his feet, comfortable in his skin, knows his own mind and is beholden to no man. Having made his fortune as a value investor in emerging markets before becoming an MP, he is in the unusual position of being able to say what exactly he thinks — and from a position of knowledge and experience”.

We shall have to take our business elsewhere.

A post shared by Jacob Rees-Mogg (@jacob_rees_mogg) on

So could Rees-Mogg be the Conservatives’ antidote to Corbyn?  He certainly has significant grassroots support. In a survey for ConservativeHome, Jacob-Rees Mogg was the second most popular option after David Davis to take over as leader – despite voters having to submit his name, rather than it appearing on the dropdown list. Over 23,000 have signed the ‘readyformogg.org’ petition. He has legions of online fans (pages such as ‘Middle-Class Memes For Rees-Moggian Teens’ have nearly 50,000 likes), and this is only set to increase, given that he has recently joined both Instagram and Twitter. And given how many people seem to warm to him even when they disagree with his politics (e.g. Jess Phillips MP describes him as “charming and funny, kind, mad and totally himself” and Mhairi Black MP refers to him as “my boyfriend – he’s my favourite”), it seems possible that he could reach out and win over a large proportion of the public.

Despite this, could Rees-Mogg ever realistically become party leader? In short, probably not. The way that the Conservative Party elects their leadership differs significantly from other political parties. For example, Jeremy Corbyn was first able to stand as leader of the Labour Party after securing the nomination of just 35 of his fellow MPs before the Labour membership were able to vote for him. In contrast, Conservative MPs are given the task of voting on candidates until they have whittled them down to a final two. Only then are party members able to vote on them. Conservative MPs are unlikely to put forward such a wildcard who has never held a ministerial role before. Moreover, Heidi Allen MP has already threatened to resign from the party if he ever did become leader, demonstrating the uphill battle that he would face in any leadership campaign.

Sadly, for his supporters, we may never get the chance to find out if Rees-Mogg could be successful in a leadership bid. Even he has ruled it out (for now) stating that “I neither am a candidate, nor wish to be one… Nor is this some clever plan to seek other office; if it were, it would have been scotched some weeks ago when it was suggested to the PM, who giggled in response rather more than my mother considered tactful”.

But this hasn’t ended speculation. There is clearly an appetite amongst the grassroots for something a little bit different from the usual names circulated as Theresa May successors (David Davis, Philip Hammond etc), and for many, Rees-Mogg is a viable alternative. Whatever happens, it is clear that the next leader of the Conservative Party is far from a foregone conclusion.