The Windrush debacle has resulted in the resignation of Amber Rudd and much whispering about the fate of Prime Minister Theresa May. Were she to stand down as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, a replacement would be required, pronto. While some in the party are apoplectic at the suggestion, others are tipping Jacob Rees-Mogg as the bookies’ choice. And if you’re thinking about flying pigs at this point, let’s remember that the same disbelief was expressed about Donald Trump.
So what do the two have in common and why might Jacob gain Moggmentum?
They’re both caricatures
While neither can be said to be “of the people”, having both grown up in wealth and privilege, it doesn’t seem to matter. The same people who simultaneously loathe rich, privately educated elites now embrace the exaggerated version in both Trump and Rees-Mogg. He may not openly brag that he is “really rich”, but Rees-Mogg drives Bentleys and talks about his nanny a lot. He also proudly claims not to be a “modern man”, while Trump joked on ABC’s Prime Time Live that if he comes home and dinner’s not on the table he goes “through the roof”. Their appeal is to the macho man who likes the wife at home and, well, you get the picture.
Theirs is the Steve Bannon strategy
Bannon was the architect of Trump’s campaign and then White House Chief Strategist. His stated aim is to cause “maximum chaos” by forwarding anti-establishment candidates and smashing up both (US) parties. Trump is currently railing against the FBI and the Department of Justice for their investigations into practically everything he’s touched, while Rees-Mogg has dipped his toe in the water by accusing the Treasury of “fiddling the figures” to exaggerate the negative impact of Brexit. Just a hint of the fake news rebuttal that Trump employs when faced with facts that don’t fit his narrative. Rees-Mogg met with Bannon just before Christmas, and is highly favoured by Nigel Farage, who in turn is pals with Bannon. Just sayin’.
They do like their slogans
Who can forget Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan? Although I can’t see Rees-Mogg sporting a #Ready4Mogg top hat, there’s already a campaign with that name and he’s started tossing out phrases that he presumably hopes will be repeated ad nauseam (and without much thought) by his supporters. His April 30 Tweet, criticizing the House of Lords’ Brexit decision managed to get both a catchy question and a hashtag in:
He also threw in “EU Mark 2” in his tirade so we’ll see if that gets any traction.
They’re The True Patriots
Apart from making American great again, Trump was tweeting his USA-love way back in 2012.
(Note how this conveniently vindicates everything he does while raising doubts about his detractors’ love of country.) Rees-Mogg has employed the “unpatriotic” accusation at more than a few Remainers and was hilariously described in the Economist as “the blue passport in human form, the red telephone box made flesh, the Royal Yacht Britannia in a pinstripe suit.”
Despite Trump being one of the biggest political movers in New York, donating to both parties as and when needed, he was undoubtedly an outsider running for the Republican nomination and then President, winning partly because he wasn’t a career politician. Rees-Mogg, while not new to politics, “is about as low on the Conservative Party’s official pecking order as you can get” according to the same Economist article. Like Trump, Rees-Mogg is trading on voter ennui with the current crop of candidates, most of whom are described as boring or mainstream. Rees-Mogg is seen as a breath of fresh air, is “telling it like it is” and, crucially (if the US is anything to go by), is good TV fodder.
What remains to be seen (pun intended) is how the Tory party will react if Rees-Mogg’s name is thrown into the hat, or if he should win the leadership. MPs Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen have both said that they would leave a party led by Rees-Mogg, and countless others have (usually anonymously) expressed horror at the thought of his ascent to the pinnacle. However, having seen most Republicans stand by while Trump lumbers through the job, I’m not holding my breath for any follow through on the outrage.