Jacob Rees-Mogg has made scathing criticisms of the Conservative party’s gloomy vision during last year’s general election, claiming that its campaign involved forcing old people to sell their homes and had nothing to say to the young.
The MP, who recently topped a ConservativeHome poll of who should be the next party leader when Theresa May departs, said the Tories should learn from the way the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, set out a vision for what he believed in.
Meanwhile, Anna Soubry, a leading pro-Europe Tory MP has threatened to quit the party if it is taken over by the likes of Rees-Mogg and fellow Brexiter Boris Johnson. She told BBC2’s Newsnight that they “are not proper Conservatives”, and warned May that she is in danger of losing “huge swathes” of the party if she doesn’t stand up to the pair.
Hinting that she might even form some kind of new alliance, Soubry continued: “Something is going to have to give because if it doesn’t, not only will we get Jacob Rees-Mogg as our prime minister, we will get a devastating hard Brexit which will cause huge damage to our economy for generations to come. And I am not prepared to sit by any longer and put up with this nonsense.”
Rees-Mogg made his comments to postgraduate journalism diploma students at the Press Association who asked him if he wanted to be prime minister. “I think ‘want’ is very much the wrong word. If you look at Mrs May, it seems to be quite clear she does it because it’s her duty to do it. I don’t get the impression that it’s a lot of fun for her – it’s hard work.”
The North East Somerset MP said his large family would make the task difficult, although he is not seen as the most hands-on father, having never changed a nappy. “I’ve got six children; it would be very, very difficult as a family man, so ‘want’ is not the right word. I’m very happy as a backbencher and what I do want is Mrs May to stay prime minister,” he said.
Focusing on last year’s general election campaign, which resulted in the Tories being stripped of their parliamentary majority, Rees-Mogg said: “We should have a more optimistic vision; what we had to say at the last election was so gloomy. It was that we will manage things better than the other side will, but it is going to be really nasty. We’re going to make you sell your house if you’re elderly and, if you’re young, we’re not going to talk to you at all. That doesn’t work; it was a bad idea.
“Where I think Jeremy Corbyn is doing well is in showing a vision for what he believes in, and I think Conservatives have to do this.”
He praised Georgia Toffolo, the winner of the ITV show I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, for publicly backing the Tories, and said it was important for the party to show that it had young and famous supporters.
“It’s very important the Conservative party can show that it’s got followers from a variety of areas,” the MP said. “We broadly expect that retired field marshals will be Conservative, but we need to show that young people, celebrities, people that can win I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here also have a connection with the Conservative party, that they see why it’s attractive.”
Responding to Rees-Mogg’s comments, May’s official spokesman said: “I think the prime minister enjoys her job enormously and views it as a great privilege.”
This article was written by Anushka Asthana Political editor, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th February 2018 21.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010