Ukraine crisis provides opportunity for Conservatives to roll back ‘wokery’, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

‘New seriousness’ exposes Partygate scandal as trivial ‘fluff’, minister tells Tory conference

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Friday 18 March 2022 12:47 GMT
(AFP via Getty Images)

The Ukraine crisis has given Conservatives an opportunity to roll back “wokery” and sweep away the “fluff” of Partygate, Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.

The Brexit minister told a meeting of Tory activists that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had created a “new seriousness” which made “woke” arguments about the use of language look like “nonsense”.

And he said Conservatives should take advantage of the situation by taking a “robust” approach and refusing to accept the use of “socialist” vocabulary, like saying chair rather than chairman or Beijing rather than Peking.

However, he immediately disobeyed his own instruction, saying he was willing to say “Ukraine” rather than “the Ukraine” in recognition of the bravery of its people - many of whom object to the use of the definite article, which they believe suggests it is part of Russia rather than a country in its own right.

Speaking at an event hosted by the ConservativeHome website on the fringe of the Conservative Spring Conference in Blackpool, Mr Rees-Mogg said that the crisis had also exposed the scandal over pandemic parties at 10 Downing Street as a “trivial” distraction from issues of real importance.

Mr Rees-Mogg said the Ukraine crisis was “a reminder that the world is serious, and that there are serious things to be discussed and serious and difficult decisions for politicians to take, whether this is about reopening and having new licences for oil wells in the North Sea, or whether it is about getting away from the wokery that has beset huge sections of society”.

In the aftermath of Putin’s invasion, “nobody cares” about rows over words which may offend people, Mr Rees-Mogg said.

“All that nonsense is shown up for the trivial nature of it, and that we are now looking at serious difficult decisions that have to be made,” he said. “I would say the same about Partygate. All of that is shown up for the disproportionate fluff of politics that it was, rather than something of fundamental seriousness about the safety of the world and about the established global order.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “When we look back in 36 years at Partygate, people will think `What were they on about? They were moving from Covid to Russia and Ukraine, yet they were distracted by whether or not the PM spent five minutes in his own garden. It’s fundamentally trivial.”

The Ukraine crisis meant that politics were “recalibrated with a new seriousness”, he said.

And he said that this provided a “job” for conservatives to do.

“As conservatives we’ve bought in over the last 20 years to socialist language,” said Mr Rees-Mogg. “And that is a terrible mistake. We shouldn’t do that.

“We should definitely say chairman not chairperson, we shouldn’t allow the beginnings of woke language to feed in because then you begin to accept their argument. I’m not at all convinced that we should call Peking Beijing, because I think that is sucking up to a totalitarian regime

“We should be robust about how we use language. If we just cede the ground, then wokery advances.

“But when serious things happen and wokery is in retreat, we should make these arguments. Who wants to worry about this now? You would have thought Covid would have brought it to an end. I think Ukraine is even more serious than Covid. And I think that Covid has perhaps brought back the seriousness which Ukraine is now confirming.”

Despite saying he had switched from “the Ukraine” to “Ukraine” in the light of the crisis, Mr Rees-Mogg said he had no view on supermarket Sainsbury’s decision to rename its chicken Kiev ready-meals chicken Kyiv.

“It’s not a dish I would eat,” he said, putting his distaste for the meal down to “that dangerous stuff, garlic”.

And he added: “As I’m not going to eat it, I don’t really mind what you call it.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said that his own six children had avoided “indoctrination” with the woke terminology they heard at school.

“They get taught the normal politesse of the chattering classes and they come home and say ‘This is all ridiculous’ and ‘This is what we’ve been told, and isn’t it all funny’,” he said.

“It’s absolutely fascinating how children are not perhaps quite as susceptible to indoctrination as we may think.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in