Wednesday 15 May 2024

The Stupidity of Jacob Rees-Mogg

The Conservatives are known colloquially as the stupid party, so that its leading lights should utter stupidities is a given. The latest issuing from the lips of Jacob Rees-Mogg was about how the Conservatives might possibly win the next general election. Speaking on GB News, he pulled the old trick of taking recent polling and adding together the Tory and Reform showings. Not only would such a reunited right be a viable political vehicle, if it could draw in Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson it would stand a chance of beating Labour. Especially if it pledged to attack environmental protections, was determined to roll back equalities legislation, and went hard on immigration.

There are a few things that makes this a non-starter, quite apart from the fact that neither Johnson nor Farage could tolerate playing second fiddle to the other. The first is the massive vote winning programme Rees-Mogg proffers is ... exactly the programme the Conservatives have now. To the right's wonky antennae, Rishi Sunak gives off the vibe of being a centrist, but this argument is complete drivel. The Rwanda scheme is more his than it ever was Priti Patel's and Johnson's. He's done more to attack equalities and set trans people up as folk devils than any of his predecessors. And you would be hard pressed to find any Tory leader more slavish to fossil fuel interests and as openly contemptuous at cleaning up the air in British cities. Rees-Mogg and those fool enough to listen might counter that Sunak isn't really a believer, but it doesn't matter. Those about to attack a trans man in a toilet won't care whether Sunak's contribution to the discourse of dehumanisation comes from a place of "genuine concern" or cynicism. Oil company executives won't be fretting that their North Sea drilling permissions don't rest on the Prime Minister's acceptance of climate change denialism. And Rwanda's Paul Kagane will carry on taking UK government money and not a single asylum seeker without caring about Sunak's real beliefs.

And then there is the electoral arithmetic, which is almost as foolish as the nonsense commentary that regularly afflicts by-elections. Rees-Mogg is moving the electorate around as if they're draughts on a board. Queening the Tories with Reform does not make for a powerful piece greater than the sum of its parts. A party's support is not a solid, manipulable mass, as we're seeing with Keir Starmer's gallop to the right and the subsequent surge for the Greens and others. Likewise with the Tories and Reform. If they united, some Tory voters would be put off by the crudities of Farage, Lee Anderson, etc. And for Reform, some of its base are quite prepared to support them because they're not the Tories. Anyone who has analysed the 2019 election and how the Brexit Party made a difference in many hitherto Labour-held seats knows that there were enough (mainly older) Labour voters turning to them to protest their party's referendum positioning. This was because, despite everything, even then they couldn't stomach voting Tory. Electorally speaking, a Tory/Reform lash up with souped-up right wing characteristics would be even less attractive to the pool of people each party has around them now. Far from rescuing the situation, chances are it would compound the Tories' woes.

I can understand where Rees-Mogg is coming from. His perception of possible salvation for his party does, superficially, have something to recommend it. Squinting your eyes and ignoring a lot of things, you could argue Johnson triumphed in 2019 on a platform not dissimilar to the one that excites the stunted imaginations of sundry Tory backbenchers. But what makes Rees-Mogg stupid is his wilful substitution of fantasies for reality. And that's the one he lives in now: where the Tories face oblivion, it's too late to do anything about it, and that his own career in North East Somerset will likely be snuffed out by a triumphant Labour candidate.

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Blissex said...

«you could argue Johnson triumphed in 2019 on a platform not dissimilar to the one that excites the stunted imaginations of sundry Tory backbenchers»

What gave Johnson victory in 2019 were mainly three things:

#1 Most importantly an unbroken record of 9 years of booming housing rents and prices, which is what the "vote moving issues" for most tory voters, whose living standards very much depends on cashing in property profits or being able to avoid saving. Voting is based for most people on class interests.

#2 1-2 million voters for which the "vote moving issue" was Brexit and which usually were anyhow fairly well-off yet had still been voting Labour out of inertia. Sometimes Brexit was seen as a class interest, sometimes some people do not vote their class interests.

#3 Massive anti-Corbyn help from the New Labour party activitists and the press, depressing the Labour party vote. This was the determinant factor, as May almost the same number of votes in 2017 as Johnson in 2019, but Labour won compared to 2017 a less in 2019 (even if still more than New Labour got in 2001, 2005, 2010).

Of these #1 (see graph below) and #3 have disappeared, and probably #2 is a lot less powerful.

Sean Dearg said...

@Bliss We have #1 "Voting is based for most people on class interests", followed by #2 "sometimes some people do not vote their class interests". So, in a nutshell, people vote according to class interest except when they don't. Thanks.

Robert said...

Rees Mogg is one of those awful caricature Tories you get from time to time. Shows the reactionary nature of that party.

Anonymous said...

Tories are the stupid party.... most of them didn't know thew probability of getting heads twice in two coin tosses. Which is fairly stupid.

Labour though, were the stupider party. Even more of them didn't know