Who wouldn't want Jacob Rees-Mogg as prime minister? He's a great advocate for struggling children living in reception rooms everywhere

The man's authenticity shines through the murky political vista like sunlight penetrating dirt-grey sky

Matthew Norman
Sunday 27 May 2018 17:05
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Jacob Rees-Mogg: Theresa May is making “a mistake” and “an error”

In a bid to cement his already formidable man-of-the-people image, Jacob Rees-Mogg has shared his reasons for moving house.

The prominent backbencher, who reassuringly remains the favourite for next PM, has bought a residence within a four-minute stroll of Downing Street.

The Mail on Sunday sees this as a statement of intent, this precise bit of London SW1 being to Tory leadership plotting what Billingsgate is to fish.

But Rees-Mogg is not having a bit of it. Even before denying to Andew Marr that he wants to succeed Theresa May, whom he convincingly praised as the most impressive PM EVER, Moggy explained the purchase to the Mail on Sunday.

“I bought it because I have six children,” he told the paper of the £5m, five-storey property. “My Mayfair house has three bedrooms for nine people [as if you could forget nanny], so reception rooms now have children in them.”

Isn’t this typically the way with large broods? You can’t move 10 yards through South Shields without overhearing someone in a Poundland say, “We’ll miss the place, of course, but we had no choice. We thought we’d muddle through, like, until we had the twins. Once we had to put bairns in reception rooms, well, there was nothing for it but to buy a £5m, five-storey townhouse in Westminster. I mean, you can’t be entertaining in the upstairs drawing room with toys all over the floor, pet, now, can you?”

It isn’t known whether the Moggies had to sell the Mayfair place or mortgage the Somerset stately to fund the acquisition, though on balance probably not. The couple’s joint wealth is estimated at £100m, with Jacob’s portion coming primarily from his 20 per cent stake in Somerset Capital Management, the investment fund he started which now handles about £7.5bn.

The fact that almost none of this money is invested in Britain might be a source of embarrassment to someone who expects the UK economy to flourish after Brexit. The fact that £217m is invested in Russian companies – two blacklisted by the US government; others in the hands of Putin cronies – might be another.

Yet as Moggy reminded Marr, the SCM fund is legally obliged to invest only in “emerging markets”, so it would be “a breach of fiduciary duty” to invest here.

Moggy isn’t always as zealous about honouring financial duties. The boss man of the ultra-Brexiteer European Research Group believes the PM should renege on that agreed £40bn divorce payment to the EU. But that’s an incredibly different type of financial obligation, so we’ll pass hurriedly on.

Whatever SMG gets up to has nothing to do with Moggy, who told Marr he hasn’t run it for years, hinting that he doesn’t profit from it. “You assume I make money from these investments. The clients make money.”

How exceedingly true that is. It’s also true that he recently declared a payment of £173,000 from SMC, and that last year he was paid some £20,000 a month for 30-35 hours of work.

But even if his aggregated yearly income came to about £400,000, that doesn’t mean he was dishonest to suggest he doesn’t make money – real money – from these investments. When the stamp duty on your new gaff runs to £700,000, it barely qualifies as piggy bank money.

Anyway, even if Moggy makes peanuts from questionable Russian firms, so what? It’s at least nine weeks since he called on May to retaliate for the Salisbury poisonings by “hitting Russia financially” – and specifically, Russians with links to the Kremlin. So it would be absurdly pedantic to focus on ancient remarks made in a wholly different context.

It would also be a shame were his reputation, like his idol’s in the White House, besmirched by Russian-related fake news.

According to the Bank of England, Brexit has already cost every British family £900. Now more than ever, these families need a champion – and who feels their pain like Moggy, to whom £900 represents two post-tax hours working for the fund from which he made not a bean last year beyond that £400k and his share of any growth in its capital value?

For those who revere his addiction to the simple truth, it was a brutal blow to hear him categorically deny to Marr that he wants to lead party and country. Not since Michael Gove offered to sign a similar declaration in his own blood has such a denial sounded so sincere.

If the bookies’ refusal to lengthen his odds suggests they’re less convinced, that is their business. Moggy’s business is championing the interests of struggling families, by setting an example that reception rooms must be freed from infants to fulfil their designated function.

Yet again, his authenticity shines through the murky political vista like sunlight penetrating dirt-grey sky. God willing he can be persuaded to overcome that crippling lack of ambition and set his sights on yet another new Westminster home.

It isn’t just that Moggy sails serenely through the classic modern political test (who would you want to have a bottle of 2010 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild with down the pub?). It’s the gleaming lack of hypocrisy.

If you can’t trust a guy whose notion of punishing Russia financially is accepting pocket money emanating from investments in Russia – whose idea of honouring fiduciary duty is refusing to pay an agreed debt to Brussels – who the hell can you trust?

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