Whether you’re a fan of Jacob Rees-Mogg or no, I think you’ll love this cracker of an interview we did in Westminster the other day.
Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North-East Somerset, has staunch Roman-Catholic principles, traditionalist views and old-fashioned manners which have earned him the nickname “the Honourable Member for the 18th Century.” But there is nothing remotely fusty about his dry sense of humour or that sharp brain of his.
Rees-Mogg is clear-sighted, articulate and devastatingly frank about the problems facing the Conservatives as a result of their disastrous mishandling of Brexit.
But the rot, he acknowledges, goes even deeper than that. The Conservatives have stopped thinking like conservatives and this needs to change if they are ever to stand a chance of regaining all the voters they’ve lost.
He is, for example, scathing about a recent speech by Chancellor Philip Hammond who said that if the rich are complaining about tax rates that must mean tax rates are about right.
“Unbelievable nonsense!” says the Mogg.
Obviously the starting point for any Conservative revival, he says, is to dispense with Theresa May. But there is much more work to be done than that and at the moment he is seeing no indication among the majority of his parliamentary colleagues on the scale of the task ahead of them.
“I don’t think they realise at all. They still think it’s business as normal.”
The solution is to start standing for conservative principles.
“What are these? Helping people to do what they want to do in their lives rather than the government telling them what they need to do.”
“We need to move away from being mini-me socialists, to have a programme of conservatism. And then we may be popular. If we’re going to be mini-me socialists then people may say: ‘Well why not have the real deal?'”
So outspoken is Mogg that he does what hardly any other Conservative MP is prepared to do: speak out in favour of Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump does conservative things. He had a fantastic budget that cut taxes. He was Reaganite in his approach. He’s got drive and enthusiasm for what he does. His judicial appointments are really well thought-through. He’s much more deliberative and thoughtful than people give him credit for…”
I came away from our encounter — we drank coffee out of willow-pattern china teacups — hoping that whatever happens in the forthcoming political turmoil, Jacob Rees-Mogg will end up with a senior position in whatever administration emerges from the chaos.
He’s too big a talent to ignore. Plus, he actually believes in both Brexit and conservative values.