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One of the most ironic outcomes of what was a truly bizarre general election campaign was that a contest which was supposed to be all about Brexit ended up being all about leadership qualities. Theresa May revealed she had none while Jeremy Corbyn suddenly found a stash.
As a result the Conservatives are now in perilous waters. After what you’d be forgiven for thinking was a victory speech at Glastonbury, YouGov reported that Corbyn is now ahead of May when voters are asked who would make the best Prime Minister. His nakedly Marxist Labour Party is five points ahead in the polls. The Conservative captain steamed HMS Tory straight into an iceberg. It seems it is only a matter of time before by-election sharks begin picking off survivors, forcing a general election which there is now a very real possibility of Labour winning.
Tory MPs are now reportedly pushing for a member of the 2010 intake to lead the party, and someone to reverse one of the main failings of the general election campaign; namely that it failed to make the case for free trade and free market capitalism, lacked optimism, and offered no alternative to Labour. So who can save them when the mutiny finally comes? Is it Spreadsheet Phil? Is it DD? No – it’s Supermogg.
This is not as silly as it might first sound. The famously modest, not to mention loyal, Jacob Rees-Mogg has been building up his media profile for years. He is, after all, an eloquent and erudite spokesman for his party while his unashamedly patrician, some might say eccentric, manner is pure TV magic. Boris with brains, you might say. The internet loves him, almost as much as it does actual moggies, and he has a legion of young fans – including swooning ‘Moggettes’ – to match Corbyn’s. So it makes perfect sense for him to advance the cause with his talents on our screens.
But I suspect the purpose of this has also been to play the long game for the leadership. His contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate last week, too, was conspicuously prime ministerial. If you missed it, it is absolutely worth your time reading it in full or watching it on his Facebook page.
Beginning with a preamble on the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the speech centred around the need for MPs “to ensure that we can help [the people] lead better, more prosperous lives” by making food, clothing, and footwear cheaper through free trade outside the protectionism of the EU; to build more council houses (not tower blocks) and allow people to buy them; and “stand up for those who have big business weighing down on them”. It was a speech which showed enormous compassion and understanding for those far less well-off than this millionaire capital manager but, crucially, it offered solid and convincingly Conservative solutions to such inequality and privation. It was far from the “business as normal” he claimed voters were “fed up with”.
Traditionalists like me had hoped to see Mogg in the Speaker’s chair, bewigged in the old tabs and robes. But, with the charming deference he is known for, he praised Bercow on Sky News in April and made it clear he was, anyway, destined for better things. “The problem is, if I became Speaker,” he said, “I couldn’t come on programmes like this and discuss the political controversies of the day.’ Or, indeed, at the despatch box…