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LONDON – Conservative backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg says talk of him being next Conservative Party leader is the stuff of “silly season” but has refused to rule out a future leadership bid.
The eccentric MP for North East Somerset has over the last few days thrown his weight behind the leadership of Prime Minister Theresa May amid speculation of who could be her successor.
In a column for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Rees-Mogg said: “First of all, I unequivocally support Theresa May, and do not covet her job. Second, if I did I would be a fool for only in Opposition do political parties choose leaders who have never held high ministerial office.”
He added: “Third, I neither am a candidate, nor wish to be one. I want to be the servant of the Conservative Party, not its master. Nor is this some clever plan to seek other office; if it were, it would have been scotched some weeks ago when it was suggested to the PM, who giggled in response rather more than my mother considered tactful.”
He laughed off talk of him being the next Tory leader in an interview with BBC Radio 4, saying: “I think it’s a reminder that it’s August. People don’t have a huge amount of pressing UK political news to write about, and therefore there’s this jolly stuff about me.”
However, Rees-Mogg has so far failed to explicitly rule out a leadership bid should the position become vacant in the future. American academic Ted Malloch, who recently had lunch with Rees-Mogg, was quoted in the Telegraph over the weekend claiming he had “indicated he would like to be considered for the leadership when the time comes.”
He added: “He did not mean now, but at some point in the future.”
A poll for the ConservativeHome website last week found he was the second most popular Conservative MP to be next leader, behind Brexit secretary David Davis, despite Rees-Mogg not being listed as an option for respondents.
The MP for North East Somerset has been forced to clarify his position after the rise of “Moggmania,” an online movement of mainly young Conservative Party members who want to see him launch a leadership bid.
Rees-Mogg, a traditionalist Conservative MP with a number of deeply socially conservative views, used his column for the Telegraph to criticise aspects May’s general election campaign.
He said: “The last election campaign was too managerial and lacked inspiration. An effective manifesto does not need a great list of specific promises, it must instead set out a principled foundation on which each policy may be built.”
The Conservative election campaign has largely been seen as a disaster, as unpopular policies such as the “dementia tax” saw the party lose 13 seats.
Writing about tax, the backbench MP said: “In addition to low taxation being right in terms of ownership, it is also better economically,” adding that income tax and stamp duty should be reduced “as a matter of urgency.”
Rees-Mogg also suggested that tower blocks should be pulled down following the Grenfell Tower disaster, saying that “the overwhelming majority of people want to live in houses with small gardens,” and “tower blocks are the physical embodiment of socialism.”
He said this “would help people have what they want, and reinvigorate home ownership, which creates a stable society but also meets a natural, almost fundamental, human ambition.”