Friday, 14 July 2017

Of Rees-Mogg and Long Words

"The floccinaucinihilipilification of European Judges." ("The act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant, of having no value or being worthless." (From the Latin roots) Wiktionary)


Jacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg (48) may have begun his political career late - he was not elected for his NE Somerset seat until 2010, although he had made several unsuccessful attempts before - but no one could claim he has not made an impression. Rather amazingly, despite never holding any government post, there is a not inconsiderable public campaign for him to be appointed Prime Minister! 

The campaign has coined the word "Moggmentum" - a thinly disguised humorous pun on the opposing grassroots Labour movement, of which he is caricatured as being the exact opposite. So far it is said, it has attracted at least 12,000 votes. (1) Others of a different political persuasion pour scorn on the idea. (2)

No one knows either his true intentions or indeed how ambitious he may be for position, but in the best traditions of polite society - and who could aver that in matters of tradition he is not expert? - he has denied any expectation or desire of such. 

Few would be prepared to bet more than a few pennies, if at all, that he will remain on the back benches for long, or not be in with a fighting chance of high - perhaps the highest - office if he so desires. Indeed he may well represent the only hope 'Brexit' and the Conservative Government have of not being drowned in the choppy waters of the English Channel!

How and why he in so short a time has moved from total obscurity to one of high profile and expectation, without jumping all the usual intermediary hurdles, is an interesting and puzzling one that perhaps rather like a mirror, gives reflective insight into the mood and aspiration of the British public, that in some senses may appear paradoxical.

After all Jacob Reece Mogg is unashamedly a throw back to an earlier patrician and elitist social milieu, for which he is soundly ragged. He is referred to as "the MP for the 20th Century" or even the 19th one. Rather than being defensive, he revels in it but in a way that is charming and self-deprecating. The English still love and are forgiving of the person who through no fault of their own, evidence ill-defined "class", devoid of pretence and arrogance, able to laugh at themselves in a classically philosophical manner. 

In their public duties it is a skill expertly demonstrated by the Monarch and most of her family, that has secured the love and respect of the population, domestic and international and the secret of their continued power and influence. Whether they show the same approach in private is quite another matter. Perhaps Rees-Mogg benefits from a similar technique and personality?

Here is an image of the traditional family man with wife and children, the latest of whom "Sixtus" has created unprecedented media interest.

Interestingly and perhaps predictably the family is Catholic by religious persuasion. I have to say I retain a Lockean reservation of that sect which until relatively recently debarred persons from public office. Were Rees-Mogg to become the Prime Minister at any point, he would be the first Roman Catholic to hold that office, although the present PM, Mrs May, regards herself as High Church Anglican and daughter of the Vicarage, although this is denied. (3) I am reminded that the last, and arguably best, President of the United States, John F Kennedy, had to defend an analogous situation.

Gournay Court, West Harptree, Somerset c.1930s

In January 2007 he married Helena de Chair, who  is the grand daughter of the eighth Earl Fitzwilliam by her mother Lady Juliet Tadgell the fourth wife of Somerset de Chair. They currently live at Gournay Court in West Harptree. Rees-Mogg was born in London but the family home was the palatial Ston Easton Park, between 1964 when his father purchased it, to 1978, when it was turned into a plush hotel and country club.

The Rees-Mogg family made its money from land ownership in the 18th Century onwards in which there were rich coal deposits as part of the North Somerset coal field. Both Jacob and his wife have maintained financial and technical connections with hydrocarbons.

Ston Easton Park

Apparently Jacob has a huge following by the younger cohort of voter. Whether this is predominantly the young Tory voter or a representative section of all young voters is not clear. From a small and unscientific survey of friends, I would say the suggestion is fairly accurate although I am also aware he excites some vituperative remarks on social media, largely related to the contrast between his wealth and voting record on the poor. However he has made a point of not claiming his Parliamentary expenses so can at least claim amnesty on that particular charge of hypocrisy demonstrated by many of his colleagues. 

Here he is shown 'getting on' with young people probably from a less privileged background. Mrs May warned against the dangers of Conservatives being regarded as the "Nasty Party", which despite her efforts (or perhaps because of them) still haunts the Party. If Rees Mogg could shed it and provide a coherent Brexit strategy, he may become increasingly attractive to the Party managers and MP's themselves.

"Hugging Hoodies"?

It is well known that Jacob's father was the protestant Editor of the Times, William Rees-Mogg (1928 - 2012) who married an American Catholic, and converted to Catholicism. He was knighted in 1981 and made a Life Peer - 'Baron Rees Mogg of Hinton Blewitt' in 1988. William was himself a frustrated MP, so it must have come as a great consolation to witness his son's success in this regard before he died. In his time he was subject to parody by the satirical magazine as "Mystic Mogg" for his inaccurate predictions.
The fiftieth anniversary has just passed of his famous editorial "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel" that criticised the harsh sentence on the Rolling Stones Keith Jagger, and in a broader sense ushered in a much more permissive society that for good or ill we witness today. (4)

Several of the Rees-Mogg family are interred in the near-by, now redundant Camely Church. (5) It is here that my five times great uncle, his wife and several children are buried with a still existing large grave stone.  In the 19th Century the coal mines provided relatively well paid, though dangerous and unhealthy, employment in the area and Jonathan was one of them, dying in 1850 at the age of 62. He might well have worked in a Rees-Mogg pit. 

In addition in my own youth, several close aquaitances worked for the family in various capacities, so it did not seem so far away. At that time, being the Member for North Somerset seemed to me to be the dream job and in my wilder moments I fantasised it could be me! The constituency he represents is well known to me and it was strange in watching one You Tube video of him touring the towns and villages, those where I and my ancestors grew up. (6) 

The memorial to John Rees-Mogg in the Church of St James, Cameley, Somerset

A view of the northeast corner of the church. Loyn Blacker took the picture in 1930 during a visit to Cameley as he returned home from his mission.

In addition Pensford was the home of the internationally famous philosopher John Locke, who I believe Jacob referred to in his Maiden Speech and his father was an expert on.  (7) In 2004 I attended a lecture by William Rees Mogg given in Publow Church on the 400th anniversary of Locke's death. Publow was where Locke's father stood and declared for Parliament in 1642. I recall both with a certain pleasure.(8)

Although noted in the Commons for fillibustering (delaying) measures with which he disapproves, he has been more successful than most in "catching the Speaker's eye", and in making humourous, yet significant constitutional points, including The "floccinaucinihilipilification" of European Judges. That obviously resonated with the wider British public, even if it had not the slightest idea of its true meaning.

  • "Floccinaucinihilipilification in the House":
  • Great Jacob Rees-Mogg Moments:
  • David Dimbleby put-down:




  1. Ali G's definition of 'Class' from 1999! (Humorous)

  2. Parliamentary control of the Brexit process. Jacob R-M debates with Ken Clarke.

  3. Published on 24 May 2016
    Jacob Rees-Mogg MP has already publicly slammed Mark Carney (Governor, Bank of England) over his politically-motivated interference into the Brexit debate (UK ‘EU membership’ Referendum). Here he savages him during an appearance in front of the Treasury Committee, 24/05/2016.

  4. Published on 11 Nov 2013
    Jacob Rees Mogg argues that the European Union is a threat to democracy.
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  5. Ian Davis Yep he is certainly a dangerous character. Charming, witty, sharply intelligent. Elitist scum of the very worst kind. You know Blair was a Catholic during his premiership right? His conversion shortly after leaving office was bollocks in my view.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 15 hrs · Edited
    Tim Veater
    Tim Veater Ian Davis I think technically Blair became a Catholic after leaving office. I have to say I rather like the Rees Mogg fellow even if my 4 or 5 times great uncle worked in one of his family's pits.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 9 hrs
    Ian Davis
    Ian Davis Yes that's the problem. He's like a more refined Boris. Rather than the crude buffoonery hiding a deeply unpleasant world view, with Mogg, we get dry whit and clever use of language. The unpleasant belief that some people are better than others, more deserving than others or simply supremacist remains intact though.
    Like · Reply · 4 hrs · Edited
    Tim Veater
    Tim Veater He certainly appears to have a good brain and is able to succinctly summarise his arguments, that are hard to dispute, perhaps best illustrated in this clip with Neil Kinnock. He is certainly the product of a patrician family and education system that continues and that has both advantages and disadvantages for the individual and society as a whole. I suppose he isn't to blame for that and you have to admire the fact that he doesn't apologise for factors beyond his control that made him as he is - indeed he plays up to it for comedic, self deprecating effect. He may evidence all the caricatures of social superiority that have distinguished British society for so long, but on a personal level appears approachable and untainted by artificial affectation or arrogance. As I suggested, the British can forgive a lot in character defect and background if these two characteristics are absent and a man shows consistency and principle.

  6. Politicians and particularly autocrats, survive on their egos. (Rather akin to the rest of us 'Going to work on an egg'!) She was persuaded to go to the country against her better judgement, by dark forces and poll gurus, by the lure of even more power. When this ended in disaster she 'shed a tear' apparently. A tear of self-pity out of the Margaret Thatcher Book of Empathy, is hardly likely to engender much sympathy in the British Public, now inured and immured to and by its experience of Conservative compassion.

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