As Theresa May stumbles through her doomed stint as PM, the Tories continue to search for their next leader. Their task: finding someone who can stop Corbyn's political juggernaut. Welcome to the stage Jacob Rees Mogg - the well-mannered, tweed-jacketed MP for North-East Somerset. Until recently, Mogg was little more than an eccentric backbencher known for his long words and dated mannerisms. But as the Brexit negotiations roll on and no obvious leader emerges, some are looking to Mogg as the answer.
On one level, his appeal is obvious. In a political era that has snubbed conventional politicians and embraced the mavericks, Mogg certainly offers the Conservatives something that Theresa May never could. Partly, this is due to his political 'authenticity'. In the same way that voters took to Corbyn's sincerity and Trump's frankness, Mogg's candour might find an audience. His views are clear, uncompromising and bold. The fact that he never pretends otherwise has won him unlikely plaudits, including from Labour's Jess Phillips who admitted that "he is no identikit politician; he is always completely authentic."
His personality also helps. Mogg's unique blend of self-deprecating humour and verbal acrobatics, as showcased in his panel show appearances and use of social media, has proven popular with a certain type of voter. Mogg has over 40,000 Instagram followers and over 50,000 twitter subscribers. His meme paged, titled Middle Class Memes For Rees-Moggian Teens, has a further 43,000 likes. Some within the party take this online status to be indicative of a leader capable of connecting with the new generation.
Measuring politics through meme pages is obviously a bad idea. But to the extent that memes do indicate the political preferences of the young, the fact that Sassy Socialist Memes has over 940,000 likes should give Mogg-supporters pause for thought. Nevertheless, Mogg does enjoy a cult of personality, and people have taken to his aristocratic charm. But being popular as a quirky, marginal political figure is not the same as being fit to lead a political party. There are a number of reasons why Mogg could never make the step up.
The most obvious obstacle is the unpopularity of his opinions. Mogg an emphatic social conservative. He has consistently voted against gay rights, criticised abortion laws for being "a form of contraception" and was guest speaker at the annual dinner of Traditional Britain - a group that wants to repatriate ethnic minorities.
As well as being pretty disgraceful, Mogg's views have no popular backing. Social conservatism is not tolerated in mainstream UK politics, despite its resurgence elsewhere. Take Tim Farron's 2017 campaign as an example. His evangelical Christian ethics, and his reluctance to admit that being gay is not a sin, blighted his agenda. In his resignation speech, he claimed that he was "torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader" - perhaps showing us roughly where the electoral ceiling of a socially conservative politician lies.
This is not just a problem for leaders of 'liberal' parties. The Tories' proposal to repeal the fox-hunting ban was met by unanimous criticism. Their 'rape clause' policy - which ruled that rape victims should provide evidence before they receive their tax credits - was rightly criticised from all sides. From Iain Duncan Smith to Michael Gove, there is an understanding amongst Conservatives that they have to ditch their 'nasty party' status. Mogg would only make it worse.
But Mogg also faces other problems. Although some cast him as 'authentic' like Trump or Corbyn, he lacks the key characteristic: relatability. Trump's authenticity owes a lot to his plain speaking. Like Reagan before him, Trump talks about politics in a way that is accessible and therefore persuasive. Similarly, people can identify with Corbyn's decidedly modest lifestyle, which lends his politics an aura of honesty and naturalness. Both Trump and Corbyn seem to be people first and politicians second, which gives their words weight. Mogg, on the other hand, lives in a 17th century manor and uses intentionally esoteric language. His lifestyle and shtick is all about exclusiveness, privilege and elitism. His eccentric style therefore may be endearing to some, but it probably rings hollow to most.
Perhaps the biggest problem for Mogg comes from within his own party. The Tories are already splitting at the seams under the leadership of a relatively neutral leader. With his uncompromising hard-line stances, Mogg would deepen the divisions. He would not only alienate pro-European Tories (e.g. Kenneth Clarke, Damian Green, Nicky Morgan), he would also estrange the so-called 'wet' Tories like Stephen McFarland, Heidi Allen and Robert Halfon. Given the Tories' slim majority, the lack of support from his own party would torpedo Mogg's ability to get his radical agenda through parliament. He would either have to make compromises, and therefore lose his political USP, or face an utterly redundant leadership.
The simple truth about Mogg is that not enough people like him. His ideology has no popular backing, his personality has limited appeal and his party wouldn't support him. At the moment, Mogg enjoys a popularity that only a backbencher could. He can afford to be fiercely ideological because he does not actually have to run the country. His posh banter and draconian views will continue to amuse so long as they are confined to HIGNFY and Instagram. But as he steps further into the limelight, the novelty will wear off and his weaknesses will be exposed. If Jacob Rees-Mogg is their answer, the Tories are asking the wrong question.Suggest a correction