Friday, 28 October 2011

The Bagpuss Rebellion.


One has had a most extraordinary week. Calls to stand as Mayor. Appearances on BBC Somerset and grillings from the 'rottweiler' himself, Mr Jeremy Paxman as to the nature of one's relationship with 'Bagpuss'. In all of this one does fear that one's original message has become a little 'lost'. 

It seems to me that there are three key issues that need to be addressed vis a vis the Referendum debate. Firstly, the last time anyone in this country voted on the issue was in 1975. Even a simpleton who had been on a thirty year sojourn to Mars would realise that the EU of today is very different to the EEC that we joined in the 1970s. Secondly, it is no exaggeration to say that the Eurozone itself increasingly resembles one of those 'Facebook' parties one reads about in the Daily Mail. Too many people have been invited and of those that have tagged along few have bothered to 'bring a bottle'. Worse still, certain 'party goers' have broken into the cellar glugged Ma and Pa's vintage Krug, vomited on the tapestries and then sued the home owners for negligence. 

My final point is this. It is very obvious that the people want it. Democracy is about trusting the voters and treating them as grown ups, not only when it suits one but all the time. Vox populi! Vox dei!

Eton Mess 

Fresh from my very own 'Jacob-lite' rebellion in the chamber, I bumped into an old chum who, during a very reasonably priced meal in Belgravia, reminded me of a dark chapter in my younger and more vulnerable years.

During the late eighties 'change' was in 'vogue' across the globe and even Eton was not exempt from the winds of 'Perestroika'. 

In 'eighty seven' a new beak arrived. 'Wetty' Williams was a man enamored of floral ties, dappled 'lounge suits', brown shoes of dubious provenance and a disregard for the poems of Southey that aroused both distrust and anger in the English 'Common Room'. However these outward displays of affectation were but the hors d'oeuvres for what was to follow. For 'Wetty', it turned out, was a fan of 'American' literature and it was his avowed intention to inculcate us with its interminable merits. This, in spite of a promise that I had secured from his predecessor (in writing) the previous year, that our syllabus would consist mostly of Dryden and in particular of his 1681 masterpiece 'Absalom and Achitophel'.

'Wetty' stood his ground and in doing so he lit a touch paper in the darkest recesses of my soul. For three long weeks during his 'lessons' I recited the Dryden poem under my breath, while he countered my stand with increasing irritation that eventually, spectacularly erupted into a four letter tirade of abuse and an admission of utter defeat. Within days, he had applied for a sabbatical in 'Auckland' and within weeks Dryden was firmly back on the syllabus.

Eton has had many famous rebellions in the past. Most notably in 1768, when prefects led an uprising against a progressive headmaster who wished to stop them caning the other children. Then, as in my day, the pupils won out and 'pop-tanning' continued merrily into the 1970's.

There are 20 Old Etonian MP's in parliament and one would, with all due respect to his remarkable talents, advise the PM (one himself of course) to remember this the next time a three line whip is imposed.

And finally:

Last weekend's bunfight at The Orchard Tree in Keynsham was a 'big' success. Thank you to the many constituents who attended. My medley of vintage hits was most kindly tolerated and I would like to thank Daphne Spragg for her wonderful accompaniment on piano. Rumours that I shall be releasing a 'double A side' of A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square and I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues in time for the Christmas 'hit parade' are sadly quite unfounded. I long ago chose the path of public service over that of the performing arts and my dabbling in 'musical theatre' must remain no more than a hobby.

I bid you all a hearty 'Valete' and fare thee well, 


Sunday, 23 October 2011

World Wide Mogg Blog: Of Blood lust, The Beano and the EU

World Wide Mogg Blog: Of Blood lust, The Beano and the EU: Habeas Corpus: On The Death of Gaddafi On a frigid January morning in 1649, Charles I was led to the scaffold. Permitted by Cromwell himse...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Of Blood lust, The Beano and the EU

Habeas Corpus: On The Death of Gaddafi

On a frigid January morning in 1649, Charles I was led to the scaffold. Permitted by Cromwell himself to wear two shirts for the occasion, in order that his shivering might not be construed as cowardice, the King had fulfilled his final wish and had spent the morning walking his dogs in St James's Park. The executioner's blade rose high in the chill winter air and in a split second the monarch's head tumbled from the cadaver and the nation committed an act of collective regicide. From a vantage point above, the venerable Archbishop Usher swooned and collapsed into the arms of an accompanying Deacon. The bloodied locks were held high and a voice cried out: "Behold the head of the traitor." Thus began Britain's short and ignoble experiment with 'Republicanism'.

Almost twelve years later to the day, following the Restoration of the deposed monarch's son, Charles II, Cromwell's disinterred body was (on the King's orders) dragged from its resting place in Westminster Abbey, hung for a day (much to the displeasure of local costermongers) and decapitated. The by now rotting skull was shoved unceremoniously on a spike and placed at the top of Westminster Hall, where it remained some twenty five years, until one night, during a dramatic storm, it was blasted to splinters by a bolt of lightning. That a man so obsessed with humility should lose his head in such an ostentatious way, is but one of the many quirks of this unfortunate story.

'Regime Change' has, in short, always demanded both sacrifice and degradation. From the schoolyard execution of the Ceausescus to the Youtube lynching of Colonel Gaddafi; from the arrow riddled corpse of the noble Harold Godwinson, to the public abasement of Mussolini and his mistress. In our own time one thinks of the blurred pictures of a weeping Margaret Thatcher being driven from Downing Street, or the humiliation of Gordon Brown and his family taking the long walk from Number 10. These events might seem cruel, might make one blanche, but they are a necessary line in the sand. A blunt message from the new regime to the mob that the order has changed, the dragon has been slain and that all is well - until the next blood-letting is required.

Go Compare

Talking of 'heads', the PM came in for some quite unfair criticism this week when he very sensibly suggested that members of the public might want to save money by using 'comparison websites'. For my part I managed to reduce the car insurance bill by several hundred pounds earlier this year when I combined the Bentley and the Audi in a single package. One fully intends to do the same with one's utility bill. In the meantime my advice for those of you worried about rising prices is this: shut off unwanted rooms or even whole wings for the winter and always purchase good quality vests.

The EU debate

Many of you have written to me about this. Yes, it is an important and very worthwhile 'conversation'. Having said that, while one is in no way intimidated by the Whips Office, one did manage to get through five years of Eton without ever being caned and I fully intend to achieve the same during my tenure in Parliament.

BBC Question Time

Thank you very much for the many delightful comments on twitter regarding my performance on Thursday. The long and frankly tedious hours spent watching 'Billy' Connolly videos seem to have paid off and I had little trouble understanding the highlanders present in Glasgow. One does, however, have to confess at one's disappointment surrounding the many quite unpleasant 'tweets' comparing one to a character in the children's comic The Beano. Although never having read the said organ, one can still guess from the tone of the comments at the implications being made and my response is this. Inverted snobbery is no better than 'racialism' and often in my experience far worse.

In spite of that I wish you all a hearty week-end. An earlier version of this blog appeared yesterday, but happily one of my children deleted it while looking for 'CBeebies' on my computer. As I am sure you can imagine this act was met with trills of gay laughter that resonated long and loud in Mogg Towers.

It is now time to take Aristophanes for his morning constitutional.


Monday, 17 October 2011

Newsletter: St Paul's 'demo' and what we can learn from Battleship Potemkin

Question Time

One is delighted to confirm that one shall indeed be on the 'panel' of the popular 'Current Affairs Show' Question Time this coming Thursday in Glasgow. One relishes the chance to meet ordinary 'highlanders' and discuss the issues closest to their hearts. Although it is impossible to predict exactly what will be asked on the night, one is already 'brushing up' on the historical inaccuracies of 'Braveheart', the porticos of St Mungo's Cathedral and the glaring paradox of the West Lothian Question. Geographers among you may have noted that Glasgow is some distance from Somerset, but my interest in Scotland and its affairs goes back some years. Indeed my old chum Bertie has a delightful 'holiday castle' near to Gleneagles where one has spent many an enjoyable Hootenanny and done many a spot of outstanding grouse shooting.


Many of you will have noticed that Question Time is but the latest in a plethora of 'TV' appearances by yours truly over the last few months. It has also been noted that my vote to allow 'twittering' in the chamber seemed to go rather against the grain of what was expected of one. In my defence, Moggs have long been drawn to the bright lights of 'show-business'. Although one does remember with sadness a great uncle who died of exasperation during a recital of Ivor Novello 'b sides' at Wigmore Hall.

Children's Corner

Ave Discipuli. You are all no doubt familiar with the delightful film 'Battleship Potemkin' made in 1925 by the Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein. The film tells the story of a bunch of work-shy sailors and their land lubbing chums, who try to upset the rule of the superb Tsar and his hard working government, by lazing about on some steps in Odessa while the rest of Russia tries to get on with the job of putting their country back on its feet. Happily all ends well when the whole stinking shower are evicted from said steps by a group of loyal soldiers and their shiny steel bayonets. While one is in no position to instruct the Lord Mayor's office on how best to proceed with the chaps currently encamped outside St Paul's, they could do worse than 'check out' the example set by Russian Imperial guards in 1905.

Brain Drain

One was lucky enough to help some local volunteers clear a 'storm drain' in Midsomer earlier this year. The opportunity to 'rubber up' is one I rarely miss and I was delighted to be able to break in a new pair of Hunters. Unfortunately a long standing luncheon appointment  with an old chum in London did rather creep up on us. Still, it was a great opportunity to meet some hard working volunteers one of whom bestowed upon me the great honour of addressing me with the popular moniker 'Mate'.

Helping clear rubbish from the stream in Midsomer Norton

Lunch is upon us and I must away. I am afraid that is all we have time for this month. I trust you are all well and bid each and every one of you a hearty 'adieu'.


Friday, 14 October 2011

Fox, Letwin and why 'Tory Hunting' should be banned.


Those of us familiar with the bear pit of political life knew that it was only a matter of time before the 'socialist fringe' of our press, reverted to type and set about 'bagging' Ministerial 'scalps' in their race to sell their tawdry titles.

'Tory hunting' has a long and ignoble history. As far back as the nineteenth century quite false rumours were circulating with regard to Disraeli's fondness for root vegetables and by the time of the Profumo 'Affair' it had become nigh impossible for a Defence Minister to cavort with naked young 'starlets' in a swimming pool, without some newspaper or other making lewd and insinuating comments.

Sadly of course, 1963 was anything but the high water mark in this cruel and utterly pointless sport. Throughout the eighties and nineties, Tory after Tory was tracked, trapped and polished off. One thinks of poor Jeffrey Archer, whose career was cut so cruelly short when out of no other motive than charity, he lent a young woman, of admittedly dubious pedigree, a large bag of used bank notes. Or of Jonathan Aitken, whose attempt to bring probity and fairness back into public life with the trusty sword of Damocles backfired so spectacularly. Nowadays Mr David Mellor is perhaps better known as a 'wireless presenter' on 'Classical FM'. Once he was talked of as future Welsh Secretary or even a Minister without Portfolio, but, sadly the career of this latter day Pitt was brought crashing to the ground by a mixture of envy, spite and a woman with a Spanish sounding name hiring 'Max' Clifford.

Dr Fox's 'crime' seems to have been nothing more than bumping into his chum on 18 different occasions in some delightful exotic locations, allowing him access to some tiresome high profile meetings with world leaders and employing him to run his superb charity (sadly now barred from its charitable status). Much has been made of Mr Werritty's youth and lack of funds, but rather than delighting in the fact that Dr Fox has been helping a young unemployed acquaintance 'network' the press has hounded the Minister from office.

Having nailed their prey, the cross-hairs are now coming to settle on poor Mr Letwin. Oliver has promised unequivocally to stop dumping state secrets in park litter bins and when a man of his integrity makes such a promise I for one am inclined to believe him.

In short and quite frankly this whole business is a brouhaha of rot. If one were Cornish instead of Conservative one would no doubt be contacting the Race Relations people, but sadly, for the moment at least 'Tory bashing' is not recognised as a crime by the public, the state or even the (despicable) 'Human Rights Act'. Perhaps it is time that changed.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Why optimism is needed in the coming Armageddon.

When I was four a telegram from my father arrived unexpectedly in the Nursery. Sent from his Fleet Street office, it informed me in no uncertain terms, that the time had come for me to put away my infantile toys and embark upon the adventure of  what is nowadays, rather faddishly referred to as 'education'.

Within days I had been dispatched to St Aethelred's Preparatory School in Muffings-on-the-Crumpet with a formal contract counter-signed by father's solicitor, agreeing (on my part) to not apply for leave (or 'pocket money' or chattels pertaining thereto for a period of 9 years) or until such time as I had mastered Horace.

Later one appreciates the sacrifices one's parents have made. At the time, rather selfishly perhaps, the grey barbed wire topped walls, ice cold baths at day-break and 20 mile cross country runs in ill fitting plimsolls conspired to fill one with feelings of misery that today make one shudder at one's youthful spinelessness.

Thank heaven's for Miss Jenkins. Miss Jenkins was one's Matron. Some years later her career in Matroning was to end spectacularly when her involvement with a Geography teacher called Boggis, who got his 'kicks' from batting toads while naked, made the centre pages of the now (sadly) defunct News of the Worlds.

But this was before that. A more innocent time. And Miss Jenkins was a wondrous cure for all of our schoolboy weaknesses. Whether one had scraped an elbow, or suffered 'frost bite' in the dorm or lost a knee cap in the scrum, Miss Jenkins' approach was the same. She would gather one up, push one's head firmly into her chest and mutter sweetly 'There, there Pet. There, there. All will be well.'

It was not unknown for boys and even some of the Masters, to self-inflict a 'blighty' in order to receive this treatment. There is, after all, something very primitive about being comforted. In recent days I have often thought of Miss Jenkins and her approach to crisis management and how similar in many ways the PM was in his Matron-like address on Wednesday.

Like many of you, I have suffered most dreadfully in the crises of the last few years. One's share portfolio is at 2008 levels, the second gardener has had to be 'let go' and the weekly lunches at Claridges with my old chums William and George have been cut back to once fortnightly affairs consisting largely of 'house' wine and the 'set menu'. But at each calamitous junction - just as the worst has seen to be on top of me - I have summoned up an image of Miss Jenkins - stroking my hair, adjusting my glasses and whispering her words of reassurance.

This is not the fall of Rome. Nor is it the Blitz. It is not the Battle of Stalingrad, or the shambles of Waterloo. It is a great deal worse - and the PM is absolutely right to tell us that now is the time for optimism, resolve and gold futures. As this terrible crisis worsens and Western Civilization collapses around us, I would exhort you all to find a Miss (or Mr) Jenkins - to nestle close to her (or his) chest and be comforted by her (or his) empty words of reassurance.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Monday, 3 October 2011

Hey EU get off of my cloud! (and why one should never leave a puppy with a hungry Korean)

A rich seam of rebellion has run through the Rees-Mogg veins ever since my great uncle Bernard refused to give up the railings of his Eaton Square 'town house' to a Scout Group eager to turn them into a Spitfire. Pa, himself was of course a seminal figure of the 1960's, whose Times leader in defense of Mick Jagger ("Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel") inspired Eric Carle to write a thinly veiled biography of the Rolling Stones and led millions of hippies to realize that if father was defending it, taking 'Mary Jane' was simply not "hip" any more. The resultant increase in heroin 'experimentation' from 1970 onwards has long been credited to him and whilst not always a source of pride, he did feel badly let down when his Spectator review of "Trainspotting" was spiked on grounds of irrelevance.

During the late eighties, while my peers were "getting high" to the musical stylings of Dire Straits, Chicago or "Flock of Seals" I was content to sit a little apart from the maddening crowd, endlessly translating Bachylides into German and von Eschenbach into Greek. And in the process, I suppose and certainly more by accident than design I did indeed become something of an 'Outsider' myself; one who increasingly said what others thought but dared not utter; one who questioned the dress sense of the naked Emperor and the growing ubiquity of 'ready made' bow ties at Young Conservative events.

This 'rage' reached its apotheosis when members of my party openly praised 'Tony' Blair shortly after his elevation to power.

There is an old phrase much beloved of former British residents of Hong Kong: 'never entrust a beloved spaniel to the care of a hungry Korean - however much he may smile and reassure.' I felt much the same way about Blair. Others, sadly, including many in my own party were more than happy to let 'Tony' look after the dogs. As more and more concessions were given to Brussels a great silence fell across the constitutional kennels of our land and I felt increasingly as Thucydides must have done after the debacle of 424 (BC).

Over the last few weeks as the Prime Minister has spoken of the benefits of the 'European Union' the old sense of rebellion has returned. I have nothing but admiration for David and yet, his words have driven me reluctantly to the barricade. The time has come to speak up. The time has come to throw out the squatting Koreans and seize back our puppies. The time has come for noble men (and women if they're not otherwise engaged) to rebel against the European 'project'.

As far back as the treaty of Bretigny-Calais in 1360, our nation has benefitted not one jot from anything 'Continental' - indeed our involvement in matters across the Channel have brought us nothing but blood-shed, taxation and cheap Gorgonzola. The Union is a shower and it is time we turned the knob to 'off'.

To quote Sir Mick Jagger himself one might very reasonably sing: "Hey EU get off of my Cloud!"

NEXT WEEK. The Prime Minister's marvelous speech to Conservative Party Conference.

(with thanks to @zatzi for lending me her Compact Discs)