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CATHERINE DEVENEY: I’m wary of nationalism but Jacob Rees-Mogg tests my resistance

Jacob Rees-Mogg angered Scots with his comments about Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross. Photo: James Veysey/Shutterstock.
Jacob Rees-Mogg angered Scots with his comments about Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross. Photo: James Veysey/Shutterstock.

Recent media coverage of Boris Johnson’s deceit feels a bit like having  banner headlines declaring: “New evidence: grass is green.”

Why the faux outrage?

So, Boris tells whoppers, and thinks effective leadership is concealing them.

Tell us something we didn’t know before he was elected.

A more pertinent discussion is what current events in Downing Street say about Scotland and England’s relationship, and the different attitudes Scottish people have to all manner of things, including community, social responsibility and integrity.

Strolling through this parliamentary debacle with an imperious sneer comes Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Looking like he’s escaped temporarily from Uncle Quentin’s study in an Enid Blyton Famous Five adventure, and sporting striped trousers and Brylcreem, he dismissed opposition to Johnson from Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross.

Michael Gove backed him up with simple evidence: Ross was in Elgin; Johnson was in London.”

He’s so right.

What a ghastly, narrow-minded, insular little centre of selfish entitlement London is.

Thank God for Elgin, where the chances of Rees-Mogg being elected are comparable with Daisy the Donkey winning the Grand National.

The UK is divided by social class

Jacob Rees-Mogg has that peculiarly upper-crust notion that integrity is linked to loyalty at any cost, wot.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (right) recently branded Douglas Ross a political ‘lightweight’ after he called for Boris Johnson’s resignation

Even non-Conservatives in Scotland have applauded Ross’s public criticism of Johnson, though no doubt self-interest made him realise Scottish voters would not re-elect a Johnson patsy.

Still, at least Ross highlighted the idea that loyalty should be to truth, not an individual, and integrity is linked to justice, not your next cabinet promotion, or G&T in the Downing Street garden with the likes of Rees-Mogg and his nanny.

Rees-Mogg reminds us that this country is divided, not only by geography but social class, with London being the seat of both economic power and social standing.

There is a breathtaking scene in the most-watched drama of the festive period, A Very British Scandal, during which – just prior to the infamous “headless man” trial – Margaret, the Duchess of Argyll, is in a taxi with an erstwhile friend who berates her disloyalty to her class.

Margaret, she says, has given the “little people” an insight into their lives.

She has enabled them to pass judgement on their activities.

She has opened a public door on the private members’ club of the aristocracy.

Those in London aren’t smarter or more moral

I used to travel almost weekly to London for work and was constantly surprised by the feeling of being in a foreign country.

The English, it seemed to me, were far more willing to adhere to social hierarchy, one involving the royal family and the likes of Lord Snooty, Rees-Mogg.

With deference comes dismissal.

Jacob Rees-Mogg divides the nation into big people and little people – northerners and southerners, lightweights and heavyweights – with an almost Shakespearean ranking of nobility and peasants.

Scots are more likely to revere Burns.

“Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; A Man’s a Man for a’ that.”

Prince Andrew is currently facing a civil lawsuit over sexual assault (Photo: Shutterstock)

However hard Rees-Mogg tries to convince otherwise, his hierarchy is not a moral or intellectual one.

The House of Windsor has knaves and fools aplenty, with bitter division, sibling rivalry, lawsuits against the state… what larks!

They even have the dodgy uncle holed up in one of the family’s pads.

Reports this week suggest Prince Andrew has 50 soft toys on his bed, flying into a rage if staff arrange them in a different order from his printed guide.

Can it be true?

Are we actually in 2022 here – or lost with Sebastian and his teddy bear somewhere in the pages of Brideshead Revisited?

A union of crowns – not an invasion

For a man so resolutely stuck in the past, \Jacob Rees-Mogg seems to have forgotten the history of the Scotland-England relationship: a union of crowns, not an invasion.

I am wary of nationalism and its ability to divide, to create social and political tensions.

When Jacob Rees-Mogg was almost beaten up in Fife in 1997

Writer, George Orwell, wisely warned about its “spasms of rage against perceived insults.”

In political history, it is an emotion as much as an ideology – one that doesn’t have the greatest track record.

But, boy, does Rees Mogg push me to the edge of resistance.

It’s coming yet, That man to man the warld over, shall brothers be for a’ that,” Burns wrote.

Well, quite.

But not big brothers and little brothers..

A group of men dressed as Boris Johnson stage a protest at Downing Street (Photo: Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock)

Not Jacob and his cut glass pretensions

Or Boris, crossing his fingers behind his back and hoping that the fact he last visited a qualified hairdresser somewhere around 1985 will give him a roguish charm. (Can somebody tell him?)

England knew what Johnson was and voted for him anyway; Scotland didn’t.

Who’s smart, Jacob?

Ironically, Johnson has almost created unity through opposition.

But it’s Rees-Mogg who illustrates how much the relationship between the two countries needs reconfigured.

Less English entitlement, more Scottish egalitarianism. Less London, more Elgin.


Catherine Deveney is an award-winning investigative journalist, novelist and television presenter.


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