POLITICS
29/08/2019 10:05 BST | Updated 29/08/2019 10:18 BST

Jacob Rees-Mogg Dismisses Anger Over Suspended Parliament As ‘Candy Floss’

The Commons leader’s attack comes as he was told 1.2m people signed a petition against prorogation.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has dismissed criticism of the government’s shock suspension of parliament as “candy floss” and “confected anger”. 

The staunch Brexiteer, the minister who yesterday travelled to Balmoral to officially requested the Queen prorogue parliament, said it was “simply wrong” for opponents to claim he put the UK’s politically-neutral monarch in a “difficult position”.

Accusing opponents of using the issue to push for Remain, Rees-Mogg also turned his fire on Commons speaker John Bercow, whose intervention on parliament’s suspension he called “the most unconstitutional improper that happened yesterday”. 

Bercow had said that it was“blindingly obvious” that prorogation was being used to “stop parliament debating Brexit” and that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conduct was a “constitutional outrage”. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Speaking on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Rees-Mogg said: “Mr Speaker is interesting because the speaker, by convention and longstanding tradition, has no tongue with which to speak and no eyes with which to see, other than directed by the House.

“What he said yesterday was not directed by the House, so it must have been said in a personal capacity and not as Mr Speaker.”

Asked whether Bercow’s comments were “improper”, the North East Somerset MP replied: “It was the most constitutionally improper thing that happened yesterday.”

The decision to suspend parliament sparked a mass protest outside Westminster yesterday, with thousands blocking the roads. 

A petition to stop the move has also attracted more than 1.2 million signatures in less than 24 hours, Rees-Mogg was told during the interview. 

It came the day after a cross-party alliance to block a no-deal Brexit had formed, with MPs vowing to table legislation that would force Johnson to seek an extension to the Article 50 deadline on October 31. 

The decision to suspend parliament leaves them facing a race against time to stop Johnson in his tracks. 

Rees-Mogg refused to acknowledge opposition to the move, however, and said that accusations that suspending parliament was “anti-democratic” were “misunderstandings”.

The move has split the Tory Party, with several rebels saying they would be prepared to bring down the government and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson set to resign today. 

Stressing that the pause between September 9 and October 14 would allow Johnson to set out a fresh domestic agenda in a new Queen’s speech, he added: “It’s a complete misunderstanding of what’s happening.

“We will have a new Queen’s Speech, which we normally have every year, and this is long overdue.

“We’ve had a desperately addled parliament, it’s gone on too long and isn’t achieving anything.

“We will have a new parliament and we will get in to an exciting domestic agenda, and that’s really important.”

Speculation is mounting that anti-no-deal MPs may run out of time to pass legislation and could be forced to table a vote of no-confidence in Johnson - something which could precipitate a general election. 

Remainer MP Ken Clarke described suspending parliament as absurd and said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had given in to fanatics.

The Tory MP said: “He has just given in to the fanatic element of his followers and decided to go hell for leather.

“I hope it will bring together the sensible majority of parliament who will find some alternative.”

When asked if he would serve in a caretaker government under Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, he added: “I would do anything necessary to stop this country going through the childishly disastrous mistake of crashing out with no deal.”

Clarke described talk of caretaker governments under himself or Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “footnotes”.

He added: “The key thing is to decide are we leaving in a sensible way that doesn’t do damage to our economy, or are we actually going to have a referendum and decide whether to leave at all.

“I think Boris is absolutely outrageous … [that] sort of petty dictator stuff will bring together the slightly divided majority in the House of Commons and they’ll decide which of those two they’ll go for or what the combination of the two should be.”