Wednesday 12 September 2018

A Brief Foray into British Politics

Yesterday morning I had coffee with a European friend who usually lives in Malaysia. While talking about the expat scene, she mentioned the many successful businesses in Kuala Lumpur owned by the Chinese community. I asked if the Chinese of Malaysia had made any inroads in the political scene, and she made a wry face. Apparently not.

"They're used to being second class citizens," she said. "Like Catholics here."

Catholics, second class citizens in the UK? I was genuinely startled. For over a year, and definitely for the past three weeks, my waking thoughts have been dominated by Catholic news. Not a single one of my co-workers is British, and the majority of our readers are Americans. And---very important---I stopped watching television in early June and haven't been to a cocktail party in over a year. Thus I forgot how alien faithful Catholicism is in contemporary Britain--or, that is to say, the pop culture/media/educational part.

The garden helps this forgetfulness. Today I held the ladder steady while B.A. trimmed the hedge tops. We decorously went into Next Door's garden to trim from that side and to throw back over the fence our untidy branches. Back on our side, we filled the brown plastic garden bin with holly and beech cuttings. I planted snowdrops and collected windfallen apples. It's hard to care about the chatterati when there's a whole world of trees out there.

When I started looking for stories, I found one about professional anarchists setting up outside a Catholic MP's London house and shouting at his children. It seems to me that public discourse has hit a new low when an elderly man thinks it is morally acceptable to tell a six-year-old boy that his father  is a horrible person and loads of people hate him.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is, of course, occasionally grilled for being a Roman Catholic and believing things that adherents to the current ruling religion--Sex--thinks he shouldn't believe. Fortunately for him and, indeed, British Roman Catholics, he handles these televised inquisitions with dignity and courage, and many British people who hate him because he is rich, went to Eton College, has six children or belongs to the Conservative party nevertheless respect him for not waffling, stammering and sweating over his beliefs, like poor Tim Ferron.

Being rich, the father of six (with the same wife even), and belonging to the Conservative party are no bar to becoming Prime Minister, but being a faithful Roman Catholic probably is, so in that sense (and that sense alone) Rees-Mogg is arguably a second-class citizen.

But he has frequently said that he does not wish to be Prime Minister, and it seems unlikely that his party wants him as their leader although, truth be told, an awful lot of young Tories would adore having him as one. For one thing, he's the sort of near-extinct English gentleman that foreigners think of when we think of "English gentlemen", and thus reminds Young Fogeys of the Good Old Days when their great-grandfathers were young and the Sun Never Set On The British Empire.

Sadly, the last time I heard Rees-Mogg being rubbished in public, it was in a Catholic charity shop in Edinburgh's Stockbridge neighbourhood (I thought*). Yes, there I was in St. Columba's, looking for something specific, and the two old wifies on duty, who may or may not have been Catholic themselves, were entertaining themselves by saying things like "He thinks he's so grand" and "And he wants to be the Prime Minister, tsk tsk" and "No wonder we want to leave the Union."

It did not occur to me to defend the good name (and apparent lack of ambition) of Mr Rees-Mogg, for it would have made for a very awkward silence and "If you dinnae like it, why don't you go back where you came from?" hanging invisible and unsaid but tangible in the air. Besides, Scots-in-general do not like the Conservative Party, and that seems to trump any other consideration--except reminding both the Labour Party and the Scots Nats that the electorate is boss.

An amusing aside: Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the (now apparently anti-Jewish) Labour Party, enjoyed a short but sudden uptick of popularity in which young people sang "Oh! Je-re-my Corrrr-byn" to a White Stripes riff. Unfortunately, it's an ear worm, and Benedict Ambrose fell into the habit of singing it. I objected to this, so asked him to substitute a more appropriate name. This is why, should you drop by at the right moment, you might hear one or the other of us absentmindedly singing "Oh! Ja-cob Rees-Mo-ogg."

*B.A. says St. Columba's isn't Catholic.


  1. If you watch the video again Mrs Rees Mogg steps forward looking like she was about to have a word at one point, he gently holds her back. Fabulous figure and face, never mind for a mother of six. At the end Nanny guides her back in, that shows how Nanny is seen in that house. When he replies "Nanny will never be out of a house" you know it is true. Apparently the lifelong shouty man has never worked a day in his life. Envy envy envy.

  2. I disagree with his position on Brexit however there is no denying the man is a gentleman and only ever comes across as genuine and honest. It's such a shame that politics has come to this especially to someone who has never stopped that low and his wife and children who aren't elected officials.