These men are treated as harmless, funny outliers. But their views are real—and stand to do real harmby Sian Norris / September 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
It started with Boris.
There he was on Have I Got News For You with his funny hair, bumbling along to gentle jokes from Hislop and Merton. As the nation giggled at one of our more eccentric Old Etonian politicians, the things we sort of always knew about him faded from memory.
What were those things? His callous attitude towards women. His comments about piccaninnies with their watermelon smiles—a comment worthy of that other ‘gaffe prone’ aristocrat, Prince Philip. His stated concerns about gay marriage, which could, he claimed, lead to three men marrying their dog. The made-up stories about the EU demanding a standardised condom size. None of this was a secret. His views weren’t hidden.
But he’s funny! we cried. Look at his hair!
The next thing we knew, he was Mayor of London. Now he’s Foreign Secretary, treated with mocking contempt by even the Trump White House.
Which brings me to Trump. Another eccentric; another perceived ‘outsider’ who had in fact always been on the inside, claiming to “say the unsayable” when, in fact, he was saying things which, again, we’ve all heard before. Trump’s supporters hailed him as an anti-establishment figure who wasn’t afraid of speaking to truth to power: as if being anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights, anti-Civil Rights and anti-climate change has even been a revolutionary position. As if being successful as a rich white man has ever been anything but the status quo for power in America.
And now we have Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is tipped as the grassroots favourite to replace Theresa May should the Tories have a leadership election. Have we really not learnt our lesson?
With his cut-glass English accent, his habit of dropping Latin phrases into conversation, and his three piece suits, Rees-Mogg has been received with that typically British indulgence to the eccentric aristocrat. For a long time, he was seen as a gently comic character from another era, a nostalgic throwback to a ‘simpler’ time when politicians were gentlemen squires of the manor.
But with Rees-Mogg edging closer to serious power, this indulgence has to stop.
Because it’s not just his suits that echo an earlier era: his views chime with a time when women knew their place, and power was the inherited…