Stopped off at my usual Wednesday evening haunt, The Brewers Arms, South Petherton, on my way home after quite literally working my bollocks off trying to avoid real work these past few days in London. It ain’t easy. Bosses are getting smarter and can spot a wrong ‘un like me far more easily than when I started in this racket in June 1974. (NB I always thought it was Monday, June 14, 1974, and smugly congratulated myself on having a ‘good head for dates’.
Thing is, I recently, for no very good reason, looked up June 1974 on my iPhone calendar and it turned out June 20 was a Thursay. And as I joined the Lincolnshire Chronicle (which at some point in the past 43 joined all the other dead newspaper in Heaven, when I don’t know) on a Monday, it must have been June 17.
Then there’s the date I started with the Evening Mail in Birmingham – January 4, 1980. Except it cannot have been – that was a Friday. And as January 1 was New Year’s Day, when no one works (or rather does even less work than usual), it must have been January 7. So much for having a ‘good head for dates’.
. . .
I began stopping off here because it has a comfortable outdoor smoking area, but more to the point, I can usually watch the second half of a game of football, often a Champions League match or, if not, a Premier League game. But, dear friends, there’s no football tonight, no rugby and no cricket. There might well be Formula 1, tennis, basketball or something else, but those sports really don’t grab me as much. So I decided to scratch that itch and write, and so here I am, posting. And boy is there much to sound off about – hurricane’s, the possible run-up to World War III, Brexit negotiations and various riffs thereon, and more domestically, the announcement by one Jacob Rees-Mogg that he doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage and is against abortion under any circumstances, even if a woman becomes pregnant after being raped. And who is Jacob Rees-Mogg?
Well, briefly, he is a Tory MP, though one who stands out rather a lot because for many in Britain he is the very definition of ‘posh’. Now, I don’t much hold with ‘posh’ (allegedly derived from the letters POSH appended to names on cruise ship passenger list of those who were well-heeled and could afford to pay for a cabin which was ‘Portside Outbound, Starboard Home’ and thus always had a view of the sea rather than less fortunate and less well-heeled folk whose cabin was ‘Starboard Outbound, Portside Home’ and who were obliged to put up with the less picturesque view of the coast).
‘Posh’ only impresses those, or rather is taken seriously only by those who don’t know what real ‘class’ is. And the beautiful thing about ‘class’ is that it is as equitably distributed among the different social ‘classes’ in Britain as are, say, long noses and not taking sugar in your tea. Real ‘class’ knows no ‘class’ distinction: you’re as likely to find real ‘class’ on the Coedcae estate in Ebbw Vale and darkest East London as among the ‘middle’ classes (and its ludicrously insisted upon sub-classes and variations - the ‘upper-middle class’, the lower-middle class) as that mythical entity ‘the upper class’. And pertinently you can find any number of folk who distinctly lack ‘class’ among those who oddly assume it is somehow related to income and wealth. And in my book anyone, but anyone, who pays any attention to what might be ‘posh’ demonstrates nothing at all except that she/he doesn’t have the faintest clue as to what ‘class’ is.
Here is young Jacob’s his Wikipedia entry but if you can’t be arsed to look it up, briefly he is the son of one William Rees-Mogg, former editor of The Times, was educated at Eton, went on to Oxford, then made his moolah in the City of London before starting his own money-making firm and who entered Parliament as the member for North East Somerset in 2010, a constituency which probably suits him more than Central Fife in Scotland, a strong Labour seat, were he went down like a lead balloon and reportedly simply couldn’t understand the locals. Most probably they couldn’t understand him, either.
Given his pronouncement today about gay marriage and abortion – Rees-Mogg is a practising Roman Catholic – it is ironic that as editor of The Times, his father William, although quite obviously a member of the Establishment, was rather broadminded and liberal in his views, although he was undoubtedly a Tory.
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I should be a little bit more honest about my attitude to abortion. I am staunchly pro-choice, yet I am also, privately a little queasy about the idea. For me – 68 next birthday, for God’s sake – it is essentially the ending of human life, however immature that human life is. But there is a little more to it than that.
When I was 25 and working as a reporter in Lincoln on the Chronicle, I got a young 18-year-old girl pregnant. And when she told me, she also announced, in the same breath and in the same sentence, that she was going to have an abortion.
My immediate feeling was one of relief: but not relief that she was having an abortion, that my life would not become complicated and that I had dodged a bullet, but that I would not be called upon to help her decide whether or not she should have one. She had decided and that was that. She was due to start a university course and undoubtedly that was part of her thinking.
In a moment I was brought face to face, quite practically, not in some academic seminar of debate on the rights or wrongs of abortion, with the fact: and I realised, not intellectually, but in some more fundamental way, that I wasn’t as at easy with the idea as were others. Nevertheless, and I want to stress that, mine is a personal view and I do staunchly believe in pro-choice and that it is a woman’s sole right to decide whether or not she wants the foetus in her womb to grow and be born or not.
The girl’s termination was on August 29. And there are one or two details to do with the matter which I shan’t record here, but only because I don’t not just come out of the matter not at all well, but rather shabbily. But ever since, every August 29, I think of it all.
. . .
Rees-Mogg Junior (henceforth simply referred to as Rees-Mogg) has, over these past few weeks been touted as a ‘possible future Conservative Party leader’. This all has to do with the fact that the Tories are hopelessly split over Brexit (as in the United Kingdom relinquishing its membership of the European Union), and that is an irony in
Another irony was that UKIP’s gains were also far more at the expense of the Labour Party than most people expected. The referendum was thus called – in my view – for purely party political reasons, but now we have the mess. And an even bigger mess it will undoubtedly become.
Our current Prime Minister, Theresa May (Cameron resigned after the referendum result went against him, although I suspect he was rather relieved to jack it all in and be able to spend more time with the family money as he never struck me as what could be called a conviction politician) made a complete fool of herself by first announcing that she would not be calling an election before the next was due in 2020 before about-turning and then calling an election.
This was mainly because the Labour leader, one Jeremy Vladimir Josef Corbyn, popularly regarded as being on the far Left, was regarded as a dead duck, and May will have imagined that turning her slim House of Commons majority into a rather fatter Commons was a cert. Was it fuck. She ended up with a ‘hung Parliament’ (and made me £150 after my bet that she would came good).
So it is no longer Corbyn who is the dead duck, but Theresa May, and crucially it is her own party who see her as such. Furthermore, the Tories are still horribly divided over Brexit, half being staunch ‘Eurosceptics’ who imagine Britain leaving the EU will be pretty much Heaven on Earth, the other half – in my view the far saner half – believing (I would like to say ‘understanding’) that it is a sure road to economic chaos.
I shan’t recite the pros and cons about Brexit here, not just because they are as much a matter of opinion and hugely subjective, but because I really don’t want to bore you, the reader. But in practical terms the it means that May is holding onto her job by a very slim thread.
The one thing delaying any ‘leadership challenge’ is that it can only lead to even more chaos and if the worst comes to the worst, the Conservative Party splitting, but also because in one way or another it might finally result in Jeremy ‘the Red’ Corbyn being the winner in any future election, one which might have to be called sooner rather than later.
This has all been bubbling under for several weeks and the upcoming Tory Party conference in, I think Newquay on the North Cornwall coast, will be a damn sight more interesting than such occasions are usually. Will there be a leadership challenge or not? Who knows? Who cares?
Well, quite obviously everyone in what we hacks now call ‘the Westminster Bubble’ care, but more than that any dissension in the Tory ranks will make the already utterly impossible task of reaching a ‘good’ Brexit deal even harder.
. . .
So back to Jacob Rees-Mogg. The man is no dumbo, but he is most certainly not the face of modern Britain. I have to admit that I have rather liked him: he has a pleasantly quiet and ironic sense of humour, just the kind I like. He is most certainly no grandstander. When he has spoken out on things – and I don’t agree with his Euroscepticism – I tended to think he was on the side of the angels. Sadly, no longer. To recap: he has unquivocably denounced same-sex marriage and abortion. But even there I will insist that just as I have my views and would like them to be respected, so must he, however much I think him utterly wrong.
What occurred to me when I heard those views this morning that however much they might find an echo in Britain, it will be a very quiet echo. And if he were to be elected as the next leader of the Tory Party – and, as always the possibility is scoffed at as so much media froth – most certainly the Tories will lose the next election.
The Brits are an equitably lot, broadly, and are rather tolerant. Maybe some, the elderly Tory voters in particular, don’t much take to the idea of ‘queers and lezzies getting married’ and maybe some, rather fewer I should think, have older views on abortion. But ‘modern Britain’ – the quote marks are necessary because in a sense it doesn’t really exist except in newspaper articles and blogs – simply doesn’t care. The Brit attitude is pretty much ‘oh, what the hell, good luck the them’. So as far as I am concerned, whatever leadership ambitions Jacob Rees-Moog had, however quietly he has been harbouring them, he can now kiss the farewell and goodbye.
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Just found out a guy I have been calling Chris for the past four or five years is called Simon. Oh, well.