Jacob Rees-Mogg is furious he was called out for retweeting the far right – but his brand is forever tarnished

He blustered and filibustered in good parliamentary style on the ‘Today’ programme, and missed the point. The point being that you need to watch the company you keep

Sean O'Grady
Wednesday 03 April 2019 13:41
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Jacob Rees-Mogg in angry Radio 4 interview

Poor Jacob. It is almost as if he has stumbled upon his nanny in bed with the chauffeur. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit tryst has shocked him terribly.

With some understatement he finds it “deeply unsatisfactory” that the woman Tory MPs used to call “mummy” has been caught in flagrante delicto with the leader of the opposition: “I think getting the support of a known Marxist is not likely to instil confidence in Conservatives. This approach to government is an unsuccessful one and it also lacks democratic legitimacy.” He wants a wealth tax! He even has a beard! An allotment!

Jacob seems not to have noticed that his party is in a minority in his beloved House of Commons, albeit the largest minority party. He needs to do better than that if he wants to be the next Mr Speaker. What a shame it would be for him if recent events dashed one of his ambitions.

Hence perhaps his bad-tempered interview with Mishal Husain on the Today programme. Ms Husain challenged him on a tweet of his featuring a speech in the German parliament by Alice Weidel, one of the leaders of the far right AfD. Mr Rees-Mogg took the view that it was no worse than former Today programme presenter James Naughtie quoting someone at some event.

Whether consciously or not, Mr Rees-Mogg blustered and filibustered in good parliamentary style, and entirely missed the point. The point being that you need to watch the company you keep, and not find yourself contaminated by association.

Any politician should realise the dangers of that. Brand Rees-Mogg has been tarnished. Previously, Mr Rees-Mogg has defended himself and disclaimed responsibility for the AfD’s views.

“I don’t think retweeting is an endorsement of things that other people stand for, it’s just pointing out that there’s something interesting that’s worth watching,” he said

Well, having watched Ms Weidel’s speech, I have to say there is no overt racist sin it, and much of it is the usual EU-hating rant you’d expect. What was more sinister, though, was the tone and a quite astonishing amount of anti-French sentiment in it, as if the French were in some sense an enemy of Germany, set upon a conspiracy, via Brussels, to rob German taxpayers of their hard-earned money and inflate their currency, Weimar style.

It was so hostile, not only to Brussels and the European Union but to the French, that Ms Weidel sounded positively belligerent. I have no idea whether they get much of this sort of thing in what I imagine to be the normally sedate Bundestag, but Ms Weidel is certainly a rather alarming lady. Jacob would do well to have as little to do with her as possible, even on social media.

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