Wednesday 6 September 2017

From Moggmentum to Nomentum

NB aspiring politicians, the breakfast sofa and cosy chat could spell curtains for your career. Believe me, their croissants and coffee aren't worth it. But spare a thought for the presenters, even for Piers Morgan. Well remunerated they are, think how much you'd demand if your every morning was spoiled by a parade of Very Interesting guests prattling banalities and hawking ghost written books. Imagine Twitter sans screen and the (merciful!) distance in space social media allows; such is the lot of the breakfast television host. Dragged into the Good Morning Britain studio, um, this morning, the Moggmentum bandwagon made itself available for 21st century audiences. By the end of Jacob Rees-Mogg's plummy, measured utterances his leadership carriage lay dashed in a ditch and the horse slipped its reins for the sweet oblivion of the glue factory. I wonder if the nag took a few of Mogg's despairing advisors into the collagen extractor with it.

Even before this morning's ado, Moggmentum had no dynamic of its own. It was a simulacra of a movement even within the ranks of the rapidly thinning Tory party. Mogg has never been anything other than a creation of the media, a figure - like the ever-appalling Johnson - whose prominence owes much more to Have I Got News For You than the niche audiences crowding around the set for Question Time, Newsnight and The Daily Politics. Like establishment heroes of the liberal variety, a political media celebrity has to marry one fifth quirkiness to four fifths emptiness to achieve success. Bumbling/Bottler Boris pioneered the HIGNFY formula followed by Nigel Farage, Ruth Davidson and Mogg. Between them, they each pivoted their bland but, in the context of the zombie greys of Tory Westminster, outrageously dynamic personalities to generate interest, and their vacuity to suck in the desires of untroubled right-leaning voters who prefer funny haha over knowing how their favoured party intends on shafting them.

Mogg appeal lays claim to the ever-so-hilare status of honourable member for the 18th century, but doing so is to curse the 1700s with an unwarranted blemish. The 18th was the time of the Enlightenment, of the first stirrings of atheism as a serious intellectual current. As the rights of deities were thrown into doubt the rights of men (and it was men, alas) fired imaginations and combustibles that touched off the American and French revolutions - doubtless two of the most important events in human history. It gave us capitalism and economics, the scientific method, modern philosophy and republican politics. The lofty thoughts of Kant swam in the same intellectual waters with the smut of Cleland and the perversions of de Sade while the rhythm of life increasingly beat to the rhythm of steam powered pistons. You'd have to go back much further to find a (pre-Reformation?) firmament more suited to Mogg than this tumult. Remember, Mogg's politics were on the losing end of the 18th century. He represents the most appalling reaction, a stream of anti-modernist aristocratic atavism the Tories claim as an organic and valued part of their declining coalition.

Yes, Mogg's politics. They have always been awful. In almost every Commons vote he has participated, he has walked through the lobby in defence of causes that deserve to be lost. Dishing out tax cuts to the rich and expecting public sector workers to get by on a pay restraint he does not practice himself, and battering the poor and the social security dependent, Mogg's vaunted principles are flexible as per the vagaries of his class interests and the short-term twists and turns of the Tory party. Like most Tories, their interests and the views attending make them entirely unsuitable as democratic representatives of constituencies where the majority of people have to work to earn a living. A case then for returning the property qualification, but this time for candidate eligibility in reverse?

I digress, so back to the Good Morning Britain sofa. Mogg's unequivocal opposition to abortion in all circumstances and to equal marriage is based on religious grounds. Quick to add that he doesn't judge others for the choices they make, ultimately sacraments (and therefore other matters of faith) are the province of the Catholic Church to decide. "I am a Catholic and I take the teachings of the Catholic Church seriously," he said. No compassion or quarter for women driven to risk their lives with the backstreet abortionists then. Okay, our Mogg takes the church's authority seriously. Let's have a look at some of its teachings then. The 1891 Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Capital and Labour notes "When there is a question of protecting the rights of individuals, the poor and helpless have a claim to special consideration. The rich population has many ways of protecting themselves, and stands less in need of help." How about "Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use." (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2445). Or "The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation." (Paragraph 86, United States Catholic Bishops). When Mogg rocks up at the pearly gates and the angel on his shoulder hands over the ledger, is St Peter going to nod him through because he defended Catholic doctrine on breakfast telly while ignoring hundreds of years of church teaching on the poor?

Mogg's professed religiosity places him in an inglorious line of politician hypocrites who've used faith to cover for their attitudes to and the laws they inflict upon people they regard less than human, be it women, LGBTQ folks, minority ethnicities, the disabled and the working class. That Mogg was even considered a possible future leader of the Conservatives says everything you need to know about them.


Speedy said...

Yes. Would the Pope approve of his lifestyle? I doubt it. Lower than vermin.

Steph said...

Great article. I agree that his professed religiosity is being used as a cover for his hard right class politics. However I'm not at all sure that he is now ruled out of Tory leadership contention. Mogg says that his "personal views" won't change government policy on abortion and equal marriage, and I suspect that leaves him in the running - and being praised for his "honesty" and "true Conservatism". I think it's his lack of Cabinet experience which concerns the Tories more, and at the very least he'll be in the Cabinet soon.

Anonymous said...

Right wing Catholics have often been more Catholic than the pope, in their own eyes, since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s. THey generally approved of Paul 6th (Humanae Vitae John Paul 2nd, and Benedict, but they're dead against John 23rd, John Paul 1st, and Francis.How they square this with the dogma of Papal infallibility in which they're required to believe is their own problem- the logical conclusion is to deny that some Popes are real Popes at all, i.e. the sedevacantist position.

Anonymous said...

The LibDems actually elected a leader with similar views in Tim Farron and many on the left then rushed to tell us that this was no problem at all as he was not intending to change the law on these issues. So, arguing that Mogg's leadership ambitions are in tatters makes no sense at all - just wishful thinking.

Anonymous said...

And just incidentally, you do yourself no credit by allowing comments to be posted here like "lower than vermin" in relation to the Tories - I am aware of its historical precedent but that doesn't make it acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Ah, diddums.

Farron got a great deal of stick for his comments on gays actually. Though you might have missed that on Planet Mogg to be fair ;)

Speedy said...

Personally, snowflake, I find Tory policies more offensive than historical quotations from socialist giants, and Rees-Mogg embodies the true complexion of Toryism. But just for your benefit, let me provide it in context.

"That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin."

Baden said...

His voting record is always the thing I alert people to. Oddly this (and his views in general) I suspect it is probably a net gain among poor but socially conservative people, and the rich, detached from social reality types.

Oddly since his recent interview his odds have shortened among some bookmakers. I can to an extent see the reasoning for this.

However the implications for female choice, control etc will make it very hard for him to stand as a leadership candidate.

I hope I am right because I fear him.

Anonymous said...

Most "poor but socially conservative" people already voted Tory in June, though. And they also tend to be elderly.

A JRM-led Tory party will likely appeal even less than May's to the younger, more diverse, and growing elements of the electorate though. And that's even before taking into account the competence factor.