To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to have one encounter with the racist far right may be regarded as a misfortune, but to have two looks like carelessness. It is the kind of thought that has clearly not been allowed to enter into the thoughts of Jacob Rees Mogg, the honourable member for the 19th Century, who dined with the Traditional Britain Group, the rabid rump of the Monday Club, which was too extreme even for the Tories.
Jacob Rees Mogg - far less pleasant than he looks
The TBG dislikes the idea that there are some people in Britain who are not white and otherwise ethnically pure; its ranks contain advocates of repatriation. Rees Mogg fetched up at their annual gathering, having been assured that warnings he had been given about them were “smears”. He was so chastened by the experience that, as the Guardian has reported, last Thursday he had an hour-long meeting with Steve Bannon.
Bannon is one of those who make up the convocation of the irredeemably batshit otherwise known as Breitbart. He is not what would be considered a mainstream centre-right voice in the UK. Indeed, he is a white supremacist, a virulent Islamophobe, and a misogynist. Nothing short of ethnically pure male Whitey Power will do for him. So Rees Mogg is at least consistent - because that description also fits TBG.
Steve Bannon - a no-nonsense racist bigot
So what was the reason for the meeting? It was, supposedly, “to talk about how conservative movements can win in the US and UK”. Winning with the backing of bigots is seemingly no problem for Rees Mogg. Moreover, he’s in interesting company: “The American also met Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, and another Conservative MP”. Farage is another Islamophobic bigot, who recycled Nazi propaganda with his notorious “Breaking Point” poster during last year’s EU referendum campaign.
And who enabled the meeting? You’ll love this: “The meetings were brokered by Raheem Kassam, the Breitbart London editor and former chief of staff to Farage. Kassam defended Trump over the retweets on Thursday and criticised Downing Street for ‘flushing the UK’s relationship with the US down the toilet to virtue-signal over a couple of tweets’”.
Would you buy a meeting from this person?
So not only has Rees Mogg allied himself with a known racist, he’s allowed himself to be suckered by the Walter Mitty of the New Conservatism. Kassam is a totally unprincipled crawler, a status-seeking nonentity who cares little about the consequences of his actions and alliances, so long as he gets to score More And Bigger Paycheques For Himself Personally Now. Others would have seen him coming. Rees Mogg did not.
It was also noted by the Guardian that “The meetings took place on the day of the diplomatic spat between Trump and Theresa May, after the US president retweeted anti-Muslim material from the far-right fringe group Britain First”. That makes meeting Bannon so much more unfortunate. The far right in the UK has been lapping up this news.
Jacob Rees Mogg may be courteous and sound credible, but he has proved one thing by his choice of friends: he is not fit to be allowed anywhere near the levers of power.