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Jacob Rees-Mogg Reveals Why He Joined Twitter And Explains His Love Of Instagram

HuffPost UK speaks to 2017's most unlikely social media titan.

21/07/2017 07:07 | Updated 21 July 2017

Most people would be annoyed to find someone tweeting under their name - particularly if they did a rather good job at passing themselves off as the real deal. But not Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The “MP for the 18th century” has dragged himself into the 21st century when he finally joined Twitter last weekend with a rather fitting, if typically Moggian, tweet.

This, for those who haven’t studied Latin, translates as: “The times change, and we change with them.”

His arrival on Twitter was much cheered by his supporters, who get #Moggmentum trending when he speaks in the House of Commons and have created a number of fan accounts, with names such as Mogg_nificent, who believe the Conservative Party would be safest in the hands of the Eton-educated politician.

But having sworn he would never touch the site, Rees-Mogg now reveals to HuffPost UK that he finally joined Twitter to deter imposters, having previously sat back and let his “very, very funny” online doppelgänger, ‘Jake Rees-Mogg’ do his thing.

He says: “My previous imposter was absolutely brilliant, he was very, very funny. I thought as long as he was doing it, there was no point in my competing because he said better things than I was capable of thinking of. But he gave up about a year ago and other imposters were emerging a bit like mice so I thought it probably best to have a blue-ticked Twitter

“What was so clever about ‘Jake Rees Mogg’ was that it took my views and exaggerated them a bit. It was very cleverly and amusingly done in my view.

“The man who did it could clearly have a professional career as a comedian if that’s what he wanted, he really did it very well and subtly I thought.

“I met him via a Broadcasting House programme on Sunday mornings, they invited him along to meet me and we did a little interview together a few years ago. He wouldn’t tell me his name, he wanted to preserve his anonymity and air of mystery.”

The MP for North East Somerset is not quite sure how Twitter will pan out for him but when asked if he perhaps admires the likes of Nicholas Soames (he of the wonderfully long hashtag) for his tweeting, he laughs.

“Nicholas does it brilliantly but I haven’t really been seeking to copy anybody, more just doing my own thing on this and seeing what happens,” he says.

PA Archive/PA Images
Jacob Rees-Mogg has unwittingly become something of a social media star

Jeremy Corbyn is generally viewed as a tale of social media success, with Labour heavily exploiting the opportunities online campaigning brings. But Rees-Mogg isn’t worried about trying to rival him.

He says: “I don’t view it as a rivalry at all. I wouldn’t dream of trying to rival the leader of the Opposition, who is a much more distinguished and important figure than I am.”

But it is Instagram where Rees-Mogg has really come into his own.

He admits that he does read many of the comments on his posts, which he selects and captions but is posted by an aide.

The MP’s account has become an unlikely smash hit since he started it in May, thanks chiefly to his personal snaps and dryly humorous captions.

It’s a platform which Rees-Mogg describes as a “broadly friendly community”.

He explains: “The pictures I’ve put on have had some nice comments underneath and it seems to be a part of the internet that is thoughtful and broadly well-disposed.”

This seems surprising, given the fact that Theresa May has only just announced an inquiry into the abuse faced by MPs online during the run-up to the election. Many, particularly women, received vile messages, including rape and death threats.

Rees-Mogg has experienced nothing of the sort.

“People have been very nice,” he says.

“It was very touching actually, I put up a picture of Sixtus [his newborn son] and had so many nice responses that I put up another picture just to say thank you to people who put nice response. That got even more nice responses and so I’m very grateful for how people have been commenting on the things that have been put up.”

He isn’t yet quite at the point where he’ll be posting pictures of his beloved Creme Eggs (“I’ll have to wait until next year when they start selling them but I’m not sure people want to see my food”) but it’s clear he sees Instagram as a far more benign place.

But Rees-Mogg does also think there’s political value in social media.

The Brexiteer tells HuffPost UK: “The political value of social media is that it is how so many people are receiving their news. There comes a point at which you have to recognise that the older forms of media are being much less used and politics needs to get its message through to everybody. It’s a question of how you do this.”

It’s a telling acknowledgement, not least since his father - William Rees-Moggis one of the grandees of British print journalism, being the editor of The Times for 14 years.  

He goes on: “I think the Conservative Party did very well on social media in 2015 and the approach then worked. But by 2017, it had changed and our approach didn’t work. I think the Conservatives are very much doing things on social media but it’s very hard to get right because it change very rapidly. What amuses and interests people today may neither amuse nor interest tomorrow. And so it’s trying to keep up with an evolving form of media.”

Rees-Mogg’s voting record has been criticised has been slammed as being as old-fashioned as his beloved tweed but he is unfazed by criticism of it.

He says: “The overwhelming majority of my voting record has been voting in accordance with the Conservative whip and almost every other Conservative MP would have been voting in the same way. People pick out bits and pieces, usually where the Conservatives have voted down an opposition day motion and they are designed to favour apple pie and motherhood, at some cost to the Exchequer usually. The government of the day routinely opposes opposition donation, it has to otherwise you would have no coherence to how government is carried out.”

Rees-Mogg’s ascent to the heady heights of social media stardom will no doubt continue as he continues to learn the ropes, but he’s somewhat cryptic about calls to run for PM made by the Moggmentum movement.

He laughs: “I don’t think giving one’s sixth child an unusual name is qualification for being prime minister.”

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