THE MEANING OF REES-MOGG

by Scott Mclaughlan

The latest official line on Britain’s European exit struck a more considered and conciliatory tone. Early this month at Mansion House the Maybot reassured her detractors: “there have been many different voices and views in the debate on what our new relationship with the EU should look like. I have listened carefully to them all”.

Meanwhile, behind the curtain, Eaton College’s answer to Mr. Twit lurks in the wings with rhetorical flush and imperial vision. Dr Fox preaches the utopia of “free trade” and Rees-Mogg casually offers up a well-thumbed copy of Oliver Twist for inspiration. The three Brexiteers, it appears, are in the driving seat.

A simple question remains: what exactly is it that they want, these Brexiteers?

William Davies provides a powerful answer. The perplexing question of how the future looks from the murky depths of Conservative HQ boils down to a core conservative belief: the productiveness of pain. At this stage in the game, it is impossible to ignore the dire economic forecasts for post-Brexit Britain. On this point, Davies paints a likely scenario; figures such as Johnson, Fox and Rees-Mogg, likely believe these economic forecasts, but at the same time, ‘look on them as an attraction’.

The perplexing question of how the future looks from the murky depths of Conservative HQ boils down to a core conservative belief: the productiveness of pain

In the eyes of the three Brexiteers, economic hardship forces people to adapt and innovate. On the other hand, endless welfare and state support promotes dependency, moral decay and sloth. Hence, as Davies points out, for the Tories, “toughness, even pain, performs an important moral and psychological function in pushing people to come up with solutions.”

A belief of the productiveness of pain, to return to Oliver Twist, is the meaning of Rees-Mogg. Charles Dickens was a sharp critic of the utilitarian ethics behind the 1834 New Poor Law. Take for example the key innovation of the law: the introduction of the “workhouse test,” aimed to both collect information on the poor and to eliminate outdoor relief for the able-bodied – forcing those that were eligible for relief inside.

( an extract from an anti-Poor Law Poster drawn in 1837)

Those running the workhouse could not turn people away, but could “offer the house” – the desperate and downtrodden had to enter the workhouse to gain “relief”. The people admitted to the workhouse were kept in the most wretched and grim conditions and subjected to a punishing regime. The principle of the workhouse, then, was to act as a powerful deterrent against the “idle” poor; it was an “anti-welfare” measure.

This early “anti-welfare” measure has made an alarming comeback in the form of sanctions, tests, and conditional welfare that requires claimants to behave in certain ways that have been shown to increase destitution, hardship, and indignity. The DWPs own figures show that 2,380 disabled claimants died after being declared ‘fit for work’ between 2011 and 2014. In the latest news, the Tory’s continue to pull the rug from under the feet of Britain poorest children.

he is “the blue passport in human form

The illiberal views of Rees-Mogg have been expertly dissected within these very pages, the sense of natural entitlement and vice-regal demeanour of his caste appropriately noted. Yet, too much focus on the man runs the risk of failing to identify the larger political current of which he is only the primary media pole of attraction. The Economist rightly note that he is “the blue passport in human form”. Above all, what should be clear is that Rees-Mogg is a glaringly superficial manifestation of the image-saturated drivel, churned out by the corporate media, and packaged as “political debate”.

(The pro-EU march from Hyde Park to Westminster in London on March 25, 2017. CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikipedia)

If personalities are the order of the day, there are plenty more unsavoury characters within the Tory fold that can help sketch out the calibre of the political party that are set to shape Britain’s future outside the EU. New “youthful” MP Ben Bradley has suggested that unemployed people should have vasectomies – such is his paranoia of “drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters”. 1922 committee stalwart, Phillip Davies, says that left wing hysteria aside, it’s perfectly reasonable for disabled people to work for less than the already pitiful minimum wage. The “liberal” and “green” MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, sensing the opportunity to be the next Mayor of London, fired off a barrage of racist propaganda in the direction of Sadiq Khan without hesitation. A brief scroll through the voting records of the rest of the squadron on theyworkforyou.com, confirms these retrograde views to be far from isolated.

Such is the widespread disdain for women (and often young men) in Westminster, that one in five people are said to have experienced sexual harassment in the last twelve months. When it comes to the Tory party’s vision for post-Brexit Britain, then, perhaps Kehinde Andrews adaptation of Malcom X’s famous analogy, can help clarify the meaning of Rees-Mogg. His loyalties to the eighteenth century are obvious, we know where he stands. On the other hand, the so-called “reformers” and “moderates,” show us their teeth, while pretending to smile.

Featured image Creative Commons Pixabay


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