Yesterday, Paul Goodman at Conservative Home told his readers “Jacob Rees-Mogg tops our Next Tory Leader survey of Party members”. Rees Mogg, it is true, scored better with the Tory grassroots than David Davis, London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Dominic Raab, and the rest.
Jacob Rees Mogg - far less nice than he looks
This was despite the most unfortunate incident when Rees Mogg attended a dinner hosted by the Traditional Britain group, whose ranks include a number of unreconstructed racists and other elements long ago deemed too toxic for the Tories. It was despite his having consistently voted against any increase in the level of benefit payments, even to keep pace with inflation. He has even voted for reductions in benefit payments.
Moreover, Rees Mogg has consistently voted against proposals to increase equality and human rights. He has voted against same-sex marriage. He has voted against equality for the LGBT community. No, all of that was fine for the Tory faithful, until this morning, when he went along to the ITV studios to appear on Good Morning Britain.
This was a campaign that progressed not necessarily to his advantage, as co-host Piers Morgan latched on to the issue of same-sex marriage. Rees Mogg was clear in his reply: “I support the teaching of the Catholic Church”. So he opposed same-sex marriage? “That’s right … the teaching of the Catholic Church is completely clear”. So that’s the LGBT, secularist, protestant, Muslim, Jewish and goodness knows what other vote lost.
At this point, Rees Mogg might have recovered and blustered his way out of it, but the interview was not a one on one: he had not reckoned with Susanna Reid, who gently but firmly finished him off with one intervention: “Are you completely opposed to abortion in all circumstances?” Ms Reid knows what the Catholic Church says about that.
Susanna Reid - pitched the killer question
And so it came to pass: “Yes I am” replied Rees Mogg. Morgan was ready with the follow-up: “[including as a result of] Rape?” The Moggster was unswerving in his response. “I’m afraid so. Life is sacrosanct, and begins at the point of conception”.
So that’s a few more million voters alienated, then. Worse, Rees Mogg has voted consistently for lowering benefit levels, which impacts on the health of the poorest families: he can hardly come the “life is sacrosanct” claim, and then not care about the welfare of all those lives once they come into the world. Well, not credibly, anyway.
On top of that, the idea of having someone thought to be a little too religious as Prime Minister is inevitably going to cause disquiet among not only hacks and pundits, but also the wider electorate. Ask Alastair Campbell about his time with Tony Blair.
Jacob Rees Mogg was the Tories’ favourite for a time - but not for all time.