I have a terrible confession to make: I think I like Jacob Rees-Mogg. Believe me, this comes as a shock to me more than to any reader of this blog (who must be broad minded to still be reading it). Logically, this change of heart makes no sense. Jacob and I are chalk and cheese. He is a very English, upper-middle class, privately-educated, Tory, Brexiteer Catholic monarchist Unionist married father of six; I am none of these things. Other than language and number of legs, we have nothing in common. Watching his contributions to debates in the Commons, I had dismissed him as a standard-issue, bool-moothrd denizen of the snug Home Counties.
Well, it seems I was wrong.
Yesterday, he intervened in a Commons debate about a private member’s bill. He cited Hansard with the fluency of a man who had written it in support of his contention that only the government may ask parliament for money. I normally deplore jobsworths who hide behind dusty documents to make their case. But Jacob made it with such lucid clarity, while being both gracious and generous with interventions that I found myself watching in admiration. Though I disliked his contention, I found myself conceding that he was right. This was most unsettling.
Then today, he appeared as Guest of Honour on BBC2’s Daily Politics. Despite having a clip shown of him as an insufferably precautions 12 year old, he acquitted himself with both dignity and conviction in discussions: he defended his Catholicism against a probing Jo Coburn; abortion against an outraged Jo Swinson and his hard Brexit stance against a Cambridge don. So what; any politician would have stood their ground.
But it was how he stood his ground that impressed. Precise and articulate, he made his views clear without being didactic. He listened and acknowledged other views without being condescending. Most importantly—considering the weasly way the average politician avoids answering—he came across as sincere, not defensive and someone with conviction in his strong beliefs. The most telling of all was it during the link with the new Mayor of Sheffield, Magid Magid. It would be hard to imagine someone more alien to Jacob than a 28-year-old black Somali refugee muslim from the Green party and I expected this to be a hurdle at which he would fall.
Not a bit of it. He went beyond simple recognition and congratulation to establish a rapport of obvious enthusiasm for the changes Magid hopes to make in Sheffield. This was no Hooray Henry, given to snapping fingers at waiters. This was no Sloan Ranger, easily out of their depth in a multicultural metropolis. The man displayed intelligence, articulate wit, graciousness, depth and subtlety in measures that I had seriously underestimated. Should he chance to read this, I offer my fulsome apology for such a mistake.
The sole remaining negative thing I have to say about him is that I regret is likely progression to greater things in politics, if just because I hold diametrically opposing views to his on just about anything—even as I relish the elevated quality of debate.