(p. A10) Among the most unlikely developments of this political season in Britain has been that Mr. Rees-Mogg — whose conservative views include a hard line on departure from the European Union and on abortion and gay marriage — is being talked up as a possible Conservative Party leader.
This unfurled in phases all summer. Youth activists coined the term “Moggmentum,” touting him as the only Tory, as Conservatives are also known, with the charisma to match the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. A 24-year-old man from South Yorkshire had the phrase tattooed on his chest, sending the newspapers into transports of delight. Memes followed. There were online quizzes (“Name Your Child the Jacob Rees-Mogg Way”) and T-shirts (“This fellow is a Rees-Moggian teen”). Someone recorded electronic dance tracks called Moggwave.
. . .
An interview on a morning TV show highlighting Mr. Rees-Mogg’s position on abortion — he opposes it even in the case of rape or incest — was expected to put an end to the chatter. But it appeared, for many, to have the opposite effect.
Voters understood that his positions were to the right of his party, but they had found a quality in him that mattered more than positions. He was, they said, “authentic.”
A decade ago, many Conservative Party leaders wanted nothing to do with Mr. Rees-Mogg. He first attracted national attention in the late 1990s, when he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in a working-class Labour stronghold in Scotland and went out to shake voters’ hands in the company of his nanny. (It was reported that they had campaigned in a Bentley, but he later denied this charge; it was a Mercedes.)
. . .
In Parliament, Mr. Rees-Mogg fell to the far right of the Tory spectrum, opposing climate change legislation and increased spending on welfare benefits and supporting tax breaks for bankers and corporations. In an interview, he said the Tory party must win a “battle of ideas” between the forces of the free market and socialism, and that its message to voters, especially young ones, had been too timorous.
“I think that conservative principles have a broad appeal and you should state them boldly, and the point of a Conservative election is to do conservative things, not to do Labour things but slightly less damaging,” he said. Voters today, he said, were drawn to politicians with more pointed views, both on the left and right, “because the centrist approach didn’t succeed.”
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Radstock was a mining town until the last pits closed down, in the 1970s. Among those waiting to see him was Scott Williams, a knife-maker with brawny forearms and the accent of a Hollywood pirate. Mr. Williams said he had always considered himself staunchly Labour, but was increasingly concerned about attacks on his personal liberties. He had fiercely supported Brexit.
“I belong in Texas,” he said. “That’s the type of person I am. I don’t fit in in England.”
Mr. Williams said he had paid little attention to Mr. Rees-Mogg’s voting record on taxes or welfare — “I don’t really keep count on politics” — but had been drawn to him in recent months, and was impressed when he stood by his hard-line view on abortion.
“Something I do like about Jacob, he’s a straight talker,” he said. “He is who he is. He may be blue blood, but at least you get a straight answer.”
For the full story, see:
ELLEN BARRY. “The Saturday Profile; Latest Populist Craze in Britain: An Unabashed Elitist.” The New York Times (Sat., SEPT. 30, 2017): A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 29, 2017, and has the title “The Saturday Profile; The Latest Populist Craze in Britain: An Unabashed Elitist.”)