Jacob Rees Mogg flanked by Jack Buckby (L) and Gregory Lauder-Frost (R).
It’s a sure sign of the Conservative Party’s dearth of talent that Jacob Rees Mogg should be talked up as a possible successor to the hapless and utterly useless Theresa May. Many people find Moggy endearing. They love his plummy RP accent. They love his double-breasted suit jackets. They love his fustiness. They love his toffee-nosed demeanour and they love his apparently Waugh-esque wit. At Nowhere Towers we take a different view: we find him tiresome and representative of an ages old problem with Britain. Namely, he reeks of privilege and his accent and ‘eccentric’ charm masks a ruthlessness and cruelty that is common to many members of his class.
When it comes to loving one’s oppressor, the Brits have both rationalized and elevated their oppression a fine art. We love our posh bastards. Don’t we? Remember how people fawned over Bozza? I haven’t forgotten. Both of them went to Eton and Oxford. Both of them are seen as rather buffoonish, though for very different reasons. And both are seen as thoroughly British eccentrics. But that’s the problem: many people refuse to see through their media-constructed façades and choose to see oh-so-disarming posh twits instead. Please, wake up!
That Moggy should be touted by some Tories as a counterweight to Jeremy Corbyn’s soaring popularity speaks volumes about the parlous condition of his party and the dire health of our media. Take this gushing article from self-styled libertarian Mark Wallace, late of the Crash Bang Wallace blog and now executive editor of Conservative Home:
Moggmentum has gathered online – a fondly satirical Twitter account purporting to be him has 18,000 followers (and is often mistaken for the man himself), supercuts of his best moments attract hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube, and his outings on Question Time attract an enthusiastic following. His Instagram account, accompanying photos of him out and about with his children with dry wit, has a sizeable cult following, and there’s now even an unofficial campaign to elect him Prime Minister.
“Moggmentum”. Geddit? I’ve seen the Twitter account and it’s genuine. Moggy’s tweeted twice and currently has 25,000 followers. Why?
I’ve read three articles recently that have warned against being taken in by Mogg’s posh charm. These were, in no particular order, in The Canary The New Statesman and The New European. The last one was written by Victor Lewis Smith and was published in February.
Eccentricity is like catnip to television, and all it takes is a bowtie, a twirly moustache, a bouffant hairstyle, a monocle, or merely an upper-class accent to enable shameless privilege to pass itself off as harmless and even amusing oddity.
Lewis -Smith reminds us that Moggy is partly a media construction. For his part, Moggy plays to television’s and the public’s expectations of a posh oddball, and he’s more than happy to do so. It provides the perfect cover for his reactionary views, which are anything but harmless and amusing.
Posh people have always provided comedy writers with a rich source of amusement. George Leybourne’s Champagne Charlie character is but one example of how the posh were routinely sent up in the music halls. But that’s part of a problem that won’t go away. We can send up the posh, who are also authority figures, as much as we like but when it comes down to it, they’re still kicking us in the face and laughing while they’re doing it. The Tory cliché of “We’re the natural party of government” is, in reality, an unwitting admission of their arrogance, their conceit and their overweening sense of entitlement.
At the end of his article, Lewis -Smith puts the boot in:
Rees-Mogg is an Edwardian man who still seems to believe Harold Macmillan’s dictum about the US (first uttered in 1943), that “we are Greeks to their Romans”. But Britain couldn’t control America in Macmillan’s day (as we found out to our cost a few years later, over Suez), and we cannot control it now, because the relationship is not between two equals, but between a small country that continually boasts of a “special relationship,” and a large country that barely needs or notices that relationship at all.
Rees-Mogg’s patrician tones and classical references won’t work in Trump’s harsh business world, and we’ll soon find ourselves in the position of a small child in the back seat of the parental car, operating a toy steering wheel and always steering in the same direction as the real driver, just so we can pathetically pretend to ourselves that we still have some control over our own destiny.
Though all three articles mention Moggy’s filibustering and his less-than-contemporary social attitudes – namely, his opposition to equal marriage and a woman’s right to choose, none of them mentions Moggy’s 2013 appearance at a black tie dinner organized by The Traditional Britain Group (TBG), a hard right pressure group that’s well to the right of the Tory Party. “Traditional”? “Britain”? Those two words are enough to get him tumescent with anticipation.
Rees Mogg was warned of the TBG’s ideological leanings by Searchlight’s Gerry Gable a day before he was due to take part. For reasons best known to himself, Moggy didn’t heed his warnings. When Liberal Conspiracy revealed his speaking engagement the following day, Moggy claimed he was shocked by the group’s views and distanced himself from them. He dutifully donned sackcloth and ashes and toured the studios to offer his sincerest apologies.
Moggy told The Telegraph’s Matthew Holehouse.
“It’s undoubtedly embarrassing. I feel very silly. This was clearly a mistake,” he said. “I try to accept invitations from most people who ask me to speak. I could limit myself to just speaking to Conservative Associations, which would be safe but politics, is about speaking to a variety of views. But I wouldn’t want to be caught out in this way again.”
Let’s put it this way, if I’m invited to a black tie dinner (no chance) by a group that I know little or nothing about, I’m going to do a little research into them. Could it be… is it possible that the posh accent conceals a fundamental stupidity on Moggy’s part, or is it the case he knew exactly who these people were and merely feigned surprise when he was caught out? We may never know. In any case, it’s highly likely that some of his views and those of his hosts intersected. Why else would he have been accepted the invitation?
TBG has a very interesting backstory that’s firmly rooted in Britain’s far-right landscape and while it may deny that it’s fascist or far-right, the TBG’s position is barely discernible from that of other hard right groups, most notably The Monday Club or even The British National Party (BNP). It came to public attention for its views on Doreen Lawrence’s peerage and although it may claim that it isn’t racist, these are weasel words. As recently as March, the Bow Group, a Tory think-tank that’s on the hard right, invited the TBG to attend a three course dinner. According to the IB Times.
IBTimes UK has obtained an email circulated to members of the far-right Traditional Britain Group, informing them that they have been granted a special concession.
“They [the Bow Group] have kindly extended to Traditional Britain Group members a discount to join either the reception or the reception plus the 3 course dinner,” says the email, signed by Traditional Britain Group vice-president Gregory Lauder-Frost.
And there’s more:
Lauder-Frost was previously chairman of the foreign affairs policy committee of the Monday Club, a pressure group within the Tory party that was later banned by Iain Duncan Smith because of its views on race. He is UK CEO for Arktos Media, which has been described as the publishing wing of the alt-right white nationalist movement.
In 2013 the group’s annual conference was addressed by white nationalist ideologue Richard Spencer, before he was barred from 26 European countries including the UK after being deported from Hungary for holding a far-right conference. The 2013 gathering also hosted Austrian anti-Islam activist Markus Willinger.
Lauder-Frost et al may deny they’re fascists or Nazis but they clearly provide publishing support, if not, succour, for the alt-right, which encompasses all manner of extreme right positions.
Labour’s Louise Haigh, who was successful in getting Britain First proscribed, said:
“Assisted repatriation of anyone in the UK not ‘of European stock’; calling on brilliant, courageous women like Doreen Lawrence to ‘go back to their natural homeland’; these are the views of white nationalists and should never be normalised. Rather than inviting them to their anniversary bash, the Bow Group should treat the people who hold these views with the contempt they deserve.”
How could Moggy not have known what the TBG was about? It’s time to have a closer look at some of the people who are involved with the TBG.
In the image at the top of this article, Rees Mogg is flanked by Jack Buckby on the left and Gregory Lauder-Frost on the right. Buckby is a former member of the BNP and the founder of the “National Culturalists“. He’s also press officer for Liberty GB, a far-right party that opposes, among other things, immigration. He stood as his party’s candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election that was held after the murder of Labour MP, Jo Cox. Nice guy, huh?
Here’s the odious Buckby in action on Channel 4 News.
This is Lauder-Frost being interviewed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London. You will notice how he gets agitated by the idea of a prominent black woman like Doreen Lawrence being elevated to a peerage. Remember that all of Britain’s hereditary peers are white.
To say that Lauder-Frost is a Nazi admirer is something of an understatement. A former member of the Monday Club (he chaired their foreign affairs committee), Lauder-Frost is the vice president and treasurer of the TBG. Prior to this, he was on the steering committee of the Conservative Democratic Alliance (CDA), a forerunner of the TBG. The CDA, for what it’s worth, was formed by disaffected members of the Monday Club. TBG’s other vice president is Professor John Kersey, who describes himself as an “educationalist, musician and clergyman” (sic). The site, ‘The Imaginative Conservative’ describes him as:
…an interdisciplinary historian whose scholarly work spans the three principal areas of music, education and traditionalist Catholicism. He currently serves as President, Director of Academic Affairs and David Hume Interdisciplinary Professor at European-American University.
The “European American University” currently appears to operate under the name ‘The Western Orthodox Academy’ and has branches in the Caribbean and West Africa. Kersey is also rather nostalgic for feudalism. As Tony the Tiger says: ” the aristocracy is just gggrrreeeeaaattt”!
What’s rather interesting about these TBG types is their connection to self-styled libertarian groups . Indeed, according to their website, Kersey also occupies the role of ‘Director of Cultural Affairs’ for the Libertarian Alliance but don’t be fooled by words like ‘libertarian’ or ‘freedom’. Their idea of freedom is yours and my slavery. When Moggy apologized for attending the TBG’s dinner, the site Libertarian News swung into action and complained that free thought and free speech were being denied. Oh, the drama!
Anti-fascists will be familiar with the name of Stuart Millson, who is also a TBG member and ex-member of the CDA, who, along with Jonathan Bowden (also a TBG member), formed the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus, a small but short-lived far right pressure group. Millson was also a former member of the BNP and an officer with the semi-fascist outfit Western Goals Institute. While he was in the RCS, Millson rubbed shoulders with the likes of Mark Cotterill, a former member of the National Front (NF) and a well-known figure on Britain’s far-right. This is not surprising given Millson’s former membership of the BNP, which itself was formed by a split in the NF. Millson was also once a member of the Conservative Party. Well, sort of…
From The Guardian, 27 August, 2001
Stephen Parker, a Tory member in Hertfordshire, wrote to Mr Ancram in 1999 with evidence that a self-declared rightwing extremist had forged a Tory party membership card. But in a letter to Peter Lilley, Mr Parker’s MP, the former chairman said in October 1999: “There is no further need to correspond with Mr Parker on this matter.” Mr Ancram argued that Stuart Millson, a BNP member in his youth, had merely made a copy of a membership card.
Mr Ancram’s refusal to take any action blew up in his face earlier this year when Mr Millson, who once dined in London with the French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, joined the Tonbridge and Malling Conservative association in Kent. He resigned in May this year after he was exposed by the Mirror.
The disclosure that Mr Ancram failed to take action to root out a known racist will confirm the fears of moderate Tories that the party hierarchy has been complacent about the far right’s attempts to infiltrate the party. It will also embarrass Mr Duncan Smith who has won the support of Mr Ancram and whose leadership campaign was rocked last week when a prominent backer in Wales was unmasked as a BNP sympathiser.
The Tories may deny it, but many of their members are sympathetic to groups like the TBG. Indeed, in the 1970s NF members joined local Conservative Clubs and were members of the Monday Club. Others are members of The Freedom Association, the faux libertarian pressure group that talks warmly about their idea of ‘freedom’, while working hard to deny it to others. Tories may complain about ‘entryism’ in the Labour Party, but for decades extreme-right entryists joined the party and they’re still joining.
Moggy’s antiquated views are only matched by his sartorial style. If you find him amusing or endearing, you might want to ask yourself this: what kind of friends are the TBG? Rees Mogg only apologised when he got caught by Liberal Conspiracy. If that had never happened, Moggy would have got away with it. Makes you wonder…
You can read the original Liberal Conspiracy article here.