Tuesday, 5 July 2016

5 Years A Mogg: Jake's adventures in Twitterland

I do like a hidden track. There's a particularly good one on Ash's debut album 1977 which consists largely of drunk and incoherent people vomiting and swearing. I listened to it the other day by chance and it seemed oddly prescient in capturing the post Brexit mood twenty years before it happened. 

So here's mine.

My last tweets as @jakereesmogg were sent around the time of the result on the 24th of June and I had lined this post up to release afterwards, but the pandemonium that followed the resignation of David Cameron (and then everyone else) understandably drowned it out. As a writer I have had a knack of fucking up my big moments and this departure was entirely in keeping with my "serious" work. Whether hiring reformed alcoholics to perform in my plays who decide mid-run to 'have a relapse' or accidentally insulting actors about to read my film script to a room full of executives, or fainting stoned minutes before I was to be introduced to Harold Pinter, I've had more missed opportunities than Jason Donovan. So perhaps choosing the day of the most seismic event in modern British politics to bid adieu to my little twitter feed was a little ill advised.

Five years ago, in a bored moment, I opened an account in the name of Norma Major and started firing off tweets. Because? Well why not? I'm interested in politics and I wondered how many people would believe it. My Norma was a happy go lucky woman in her late 60s, who loved cheese and Leonard Cohen and who occasionally gave her pennyworth on politics, while writing a biography of a policeman who had stood on the door at Number 10 and written poems about all the famous people who had gone in. Unfortunately, the real Norma didn't like it and some articles started appearing in the Telegraph and elsewhere saying how upset she was; so I killed her, on her croquet lawn, in a live tweeted Dalek attack and re-emerged as "Jake Rees-Mogg." 

Yes. I know. Deeply immature. But you should have seen the responses!

I felt that having eviscerated Norma, I was hiding in plain sight but I had not fully taken into account the shifting sands of social media, the fog of confusion and the fact that people can quite easily be fooled by numbers. With alarming speed, what had started out as a joke to while away the odd minute here and there in my working week snowballed into an extended situationist prank. The Guardian, Telegraph, Standard, Times, Mail, Express and even The Daily Star took to quoting my tweets as *his* and suddenly the whole thing turned a little subversive. Once one media type started to follow me lots of other media types started to follow me. Then there were "political rivals" who 'took issue' with me, while liberal and left leaning people, who I might normally agree with, trolled me and called me a Tory c*** leading to my blocking people I might otherwise like and siding with people I didn't. 

As the 'other one' came out with big words and insane ideas it increasingly felt as if we were locked in some bizarre cat and mouse game to see who could be more eccentric. I had tweeted the word floccinaucinihilipilification some weeks before he famously said it in parliament and I began to wonder whether these astonishing coincidences, were him reading my feed or me reading his mind.

I took a decision early on not to reveal that the account was a "spoof" (such an ugly word). I took my lead from the Swiftian school of satire and as he got sillier, so did I. Then sadly, Jacob lost his sense of humour and shots were fired

I rather took offence at this - feeling, not undeservedly, that I had in many ways increased his profile and anyway, those who dug a little into my feed were swiftly rewarded with one's twitter motto The staggering thing was, that as time went by, fewer and fewer people did and as one's numbers went up a certain momentum gathered and one could seemingly come out with any amount of guff and people would agree with it. On one occasion I was staggered to see the "other one" on a certain late night news programme discussing the mansion tax, just hours after I had published a ridiculous spoof on this site arguing that big houses should be given tax relief to encourage a thrifty "servant sector." Two weeks later I learned from Private Eye that Mr Mogg had indeed been asked to appear on account of his "blog" only to respond that he didn't write "a blog."

Eventually a sort of entente was reached. An entente that led to my meeting Jacob on an edition of Radio 4's Broadcasting House . Jacob is undeniably a charming, old school gentleman and unfortunately it is much harder to satirise someone when one has met them, chatted to them, shaken their hand - and talked about Swift. We left the BBC best of pals and I had to pretend I was going the other way and then hide behind a hedge lest I were to start liking him more. 

But I persevered, partly because it was fun, partly because it opened a few doors, partly because like most writers I'm fundamentally vain, partly because this whole mad era in which we are living is ripe with satire and in the absence of an invite from Private Eye to take over from Hislop, this one man satire machine was - well - fun.

All things must pass. I have struggled a little in the last few weeks to keep my sense of humour in the face of Brexit. I also sense that twitter has come of age and that satirical accounts have rather had their day. I am a writer with ever decreasing circles of available time. I am nearing the end of a comical novel about referendums and EU articles; the great white rabbit's pocket watch is ticking and I need to reacquaint myself with my agent before she thinks I've died. 

I would  like to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my stuff and say so many kind things about the account. It has given me enormous pleasure and I would also like to thank Jacob for putting up with it.

We live in strange and bewildering days and it is time perhaps to emerge from the rabbit hole and suck in the insanity up here instead. That said - my phone is *very much on.*

Yours aye



  1. You never fooled me. But you came >< close.

    Thank you for the smiles you've given us.

  2. I'm happy to learn that I'm one of the those inquisitive few who did find the motto. I think I enjoyed the account all the more because of it. Thanks for the laughs.

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  4. Will you be supporting Andrea Leadsom in the leadership campaign who is supported by Boris Johnson, whom you originally intended to support? Your style, wit and undoubted knowledge will be a significant asset to her campaign.

  5. Fred I would encourage you to read the blog.

    1. Hi Jake. Thanks for replying. I have looked on this page and 2016 but you give no indication other than you are no longer tweeting. In the leadership contest 7 July you supported Gove, but he is gone now. In the video interview 28 Jun (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxQiKKPnvYU) you say that Theresa May's EU support weakens her candidature for new PM and a continuation of the same and continunarity of the old establishement. From this, I can assume that you will be supporting Andrea Leadsom.

  6. Fred please read "the blog". With very warmest regards.