Enemies of the people? Who was behind the letter to Downing Street and who is taking back control?

Earlier this week, the European Research Group, headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, delivered a letter to Downing Street signed by 62 MPs, demanding that the UK should not be stopped from negotiating trade deals with other countries and gain full “regulatory autonomy” once we leave the EU. The taxpayer funded ERG is a small but influential gang of Brexit MPs who want Leave delivered whatever the cost. May is clearly a bit worried about them and thus responded to the note by inviting Mogg and a cluster of Brexiteers into Downing Street.

There are currently 650 Members of Parliament of whom 315 are Tory MPs. In any other circumstances a letter such as this would probably be ignored, but because of May’s precarious working majority, this very small but potentially damaging group of 62, feels it can dictate the course of the Leave negotiations and thus the destinies of 65 million others.

20180221_073747
The ERG signatories – A Who’s Who and in some cases WHO??? of Brexiteers

So who are they all? I’ve spent the last 24 hours looking at these ERG signatories, analysing some common threads and asking – is this really about sovereignty? Is this really about ‘democracy’?And – who exactly is taking back control?

Let’s start with ERG Chairman, 48 year old multi-millionaire Old Etonian Jacob Rees-Mogg. He might be best known for his Lord Snooty tribute act, but beneath the posh suits lurks a very un-cuddly backward-looking patrician Tory. When not posing with Bagpuss, Jacob is one of the richest members of the Houses of Parliament. Indeed, he earns considerably more than the Prime Minister thanks to his ‘extra curricula activities’ at Somerset Capital Management whose emerging markets activities will no doubt benefit from Brexit. Estimates suggest Mogg netted at least £4 million during his 7 years as an MP on top of his £74k parliamentary salary. Behind the charming veneer, Jacob has genuinely deplorable views, believing that rape victims shouldn’t have abortions, that food banks are uplifting, that the human rights act should be ditched and that gay marriage is wrong. While Mogg has long wanted to ‘get back control’ he happily admits that he himself takes his orders from Rome; with a clear majority of voters in North East Somerset backing Remain – the concerns of his constituents are clearly the very last thing on his mind.

rees mogg
The danger with political jokes – is that they risk getting elected

Mogg is just one of the 32 (51%) of ex-public school alumni on a list that is overwhelmingly white, wealthy and male. 32% (19) of the signatories went to Oxford or Cambridge, just 16% are women and of those – 20% are called Anne-Marie. (Among all MPs – 29% went to private schools and 25% to Oxbridge. Source C4.)

The list is stuffed with the names of old style, aristocratic Tory fat cats such as “Sir Henry Bellingham” a descendent of Spencer Perceval’s assassin John Bellingham. Old Etonian ‘Henners’ fills in the time between representing his constituents by earning £108,000 per year, working just seven hours a month, for a mining company and when not doing that ‘Busy Bellingham’ is doing his other jobs as a senior advisor to a posh fund management company and as a non-executive Director of Developing Market Associates. Does this sound like the CV of a latter day Che Guevara, liberating the nation from the clutches of globalist corporate interests?

Working further down through the names, it is bewildering just how many of these hard working parliamentarian patriots find time for ‘second jobs.’ In between trying to stop the repeal of Section 28, pulling the UK out of the EU and striving for a decade to reintroduce the death penalty, Mr Bean tribute act John Redwood, for example has managed to ‘top up’ his MP salary by £200k a year as Chief Global Strategist at Charles Stanley and Co. John may be an ardent Brextremist but he’s an even more diligent corporate strategist and last year advised his clients to move their money out of Britain – because of Brexit. We may have been told that Brexit will be nothing but good by John Redwood himself – but perhaps that’s because we don’t pay him enough.

But Brexit is much more than mere financial details, isn’t it. It’s about getting the nation back on track. It’s about Sovereignty. It’s about engaging with the rest of the world – about being progressive and forward thinking and distancing ourselves from the ‘old ways.’

Odd then, that there are so many MPs on the list who are so keen to espouse what might best be termed ‘Extreme Victorian values’. Take Peter “funny” Bone who has long been preoccupied with others’ sex lives and in particular whether gay couples should marry. Peter believed ‘the people’ should decide on the issue of LGBT rights and was keen to invoke his wife, Mrs Bone’s views on all manner of matters of morality….. right up to the point when he dumped her for a model 20 years his junior. The Boner has been ‘entertaining’ his new girlfriend at his luxury £1.5 million taxpayer funded home ever since. Taking back control was never easier!

Peter incidentally believes that Brexit will be a boost for Britain and in particular the humble British worker. Pin Prick wonders if this Peter Bone is in any way related to the one who was once dubbed “Britain’s meanest boss” after paying an employee just 87p an hour.

peter bone
Peter ‘funny’ Bone MP

But we are already half-way in and have barely troubled the tip of the ‘62’ iceberg – so let’s quickly run through some of the supporting cast: there’s lovely James Gray MP who is so keen to leave things that he dumped his wife while she was undergoing breast cancer treatment and ran off with another woman. There’s the aptly named ‘man of the people’ Philip Hollobone who wants to reintroduce National Service and who recently talked out a Bill that would protect the NHS from privatisation. There’s Old Harrovian Richard Grosvenor Plunkett Ernle-Erle-Drax Lord of the Manor of Longburton. There’s Lucy Allen who lives with her millionaire stockbroker husband in a Wandsworth mansion a full 160 miles from her Telford constituency. You may remember Lucy, incidentally, as the lovely MP who sacked an employee for taking sick leave (more of that to come post-Brexit) and was accused of aggressive and bullying behaviour by two others. There’s Bob Blackman who distinguished himself by talking openly about his moral opposition to same sex marriage – only to be called out by his secret mistress of 10 years standing. There’s Andrew Bridgen who thinks ordinary people are ‘put off’ becoming MPs by the paltry salary and who has thus taken matter into his own hands, got on his bike and gone off to work for the family firm for £93,276 pa for just 6 hours a week. Multi-millionaire Andy sold his £2million mansion to you and me the taxpayer (wasn’t that generous of us, do you remember) in 2015 under the HS2 ‘hardship scheme’ – because he was getting divorced. He took back control and we took back his home.

There’s David Jones MP, who outshone everyone in 2013, by charging the taxpayer to take a chauffeur driven Jaguar on a 100 metre ride.

There’s Andrew Rosindell of the Monday Club (flags division) who has dedicated much of his parliamentary career to trying to get a dedicated queue at Heathrow for people who come from other countries that have the Queen as their head of state. Oh and of course, there’s lovely Philip Davies who has busied himself about the Commons blocking bills he doesn’t like, by ‘talking them out.’ Free hospital parking for carers of seriously ill patients? BLOCKED. First aid provision in schools? BLOCKED. Phil was so busy blocking bills that in 2013 he neglected to mention that he had received £10,000 in ‘benefits’ from the gambling industry.

There’s Priti Patel, former ‘big tobacco’ PR supremo who was sacked…. Sorry who resigned for lying. And lovely Anne-Marie Trevelyan who voted against smoking bans, voted against LGBT rights, voted against laws to promote equality and human rights – and voted consistently for tax cuts for the rich and better provision for private patients in the NHS. The ‘other’ Anne-Marie (Morris) who has been an MP since 2010 is remembered mostly for that one appearance when she dismissed the threat of leaving the EU with no deal as a “n**ger in the woodpile.” She promptly lost the whip – but don’t worry they gave it back to her in the end.

These MPs may be fighting to take back control, but one has to question who exactly they are taking it back for. This question is perhaps most pertinent for the MPs on the list, who represent Remain constituencies. Step forward Matthew Offord, Bob Blackman, Jacob Rees-Mogg (again) Giacomo ‘Jack’ Lopresti, ‘Mad’ Bob Stewart, Stephen Kerr, Colin Clark, Iain Duncan Smith and John Redwood (again)

There is a remarkable and largely homogenous commonality of views between these Brexit backers that could best be described as ‘anti-NHS, anti-tax, anti-regulation, traditionalist, monarchist, anti-poor people, vigorously pro-wealth and very, very right wing.’ A clear majority have opposed any reform of the unelected House of Lords. A clear majority oppose LGBT rights. Most Britons and even most Conservative and UKIP member support same sex marriages – but most of these MPs (65%) have either voted consistently against LGBT rights and weddings or spoken fiercely against them. The bulk of those who were there for the Same Sex Couples Act of 2013, voted against. Nobody on the list supported Yes in the AV referendum or has spoken vocally in support of any change to our voting system, putting to bed the lie that Brexit is somehow about ‘the people’ being given autonomy or more democracy.

It isn’t.

From where the ERG is standing at least, it’s clearly about vested interests and old style Conservative values. In short – a power grab. And perhaps that extends well beyond the 62, for as has been pointed out by Matthew Holehouse among others, there is something rather peculiar about the document. While almost none of the signatories have a legal or trade expertise background, the letter itself is very, very specific in its demands. Indeed I would challenge most people to understand it without a ‘translation’. Have all the 62 members of the ERG actually comprehended what they have put their names to? There are rumours, allegedly emanating from Downing Street that the influential and rather shady Legatum Institute, at the heart of hard Brexit, may have played a role in its drafting. The funding of the Legatum Institute, which is owned by a Dubai Hedge Fund, remains somewhat shrouded in mystery and most people still have not heard of it – but if the Institute is indeed behind this letter then there are vested interests at surreptitious play and frankly we – the people – should know.

20180222_145815

Because remember – this is supposed to be about our country and us taking back control, but it would seem that handing that ‘control’ to the ordinary British subject is the very last thing on the ERG agenda. These true believers of Brexit and their fellow travellers on the old right – may pretend they are working to deliver what the ‘people wanted’ – but all the time, they are very much aware, that it is now ‘their’ agenda and because of May’s weakness they have the power to deliver it. The ERG Tory signatories represent just 19% of the Conservative parliamentary party and just 9% of all elected MPs but they have decided that they have a mandate and that this is ‘their’ prize and it would seem that the lacklustre Mrs May is too weak or gutless to stop them.

This is no longer a process – it’s a coup – and it flies in the face of the interests of the vast majority of British people on both sides of the Brexit divide.

control

Exclusive: “Rees-Mogg” talks chlorinated chicken, Moggmentum, Vince Cable and misery

jake

“Jacob Rees-Mogg” answers our questionnaire:

__1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Lunch surrounded by one’s family. Sunday lunch is a quintessential part of any Englishman’s weekly routine and one of the many benefits of Brexit is that we will soon, once again, have chlorinated chicken firmly back on the menu. It is perfectly safe of course. Indeed, as anyone with a General Certificate in Chemistry could tell you it is not only safe, but adds a dulcet “swimming pool” aroma to one’s meal. Since the EU banned it, one has been obliged to add one’s own chlorine at meal times.

 __2.__On what occasions do you lie?

One never lies. One reclines.

__3.__What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Aξίωση

__4.__What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Ever since the EU Referendum last year, one section of our country has been mired in chumpery. A cottage industry has grown out of misery and doom-mongery – as liberal types busy themselves in newspaper columns and wireless interviews, accusing the government of being directionless, or pointing to the crashing pound and spiralling inflation and saying it was all a beastly idea to leave the EU. Balderdash of course for on the contrary, the Brexit negotiations have been trotting along very happily indeed. Our position is clear.  We want everything we have already, along with all the other things that we don’t have and we don’t want to pay a penny for it.

__5.__What is your greatest extravagance?

One lives a very frugal life. The upkeep of the Bentley is one’s gift to future generations and thus not so much an extravagance, more a public duty. I suppose one could have one or two fewer homes and a smaller number of servants, but good staff are very hard to come by and take years of training so I see their employ as a long term investment.  One does not want to be accused of overindulgence however and so last year when we took a rare family holiday to California I did ensure that the children and nanny flew in business class. It is essential that one’s offspring meet ordinary people now and then.

__7.__What is your current state of mind?

I am thrilled at the prospect of us leaving the EU. As the Chinese economy continues to boom, the sweat factories of South East Asia will need to move somewhere else and once rid of all that silly health and safety legislation I can envisage a bright future for Britain making cheap plastic toys for global markets. Brexit will undoubtedly have short term consequences on our imports and as we rely on the EU for so much of our food there will perhaps be a period of readjustment. This could be a very good thing. It is my hope that a system of rationing could be introduced – to make sure that the working man has a healthier diet. This in turn could resolve our current “obesity epidemic.” If one looks at photographs of chaps during the Blitz very few of them are “fat.” There is a good reason for that. There was no food.

__8.__What is your ambition?

One is very flattered to be touted about as the “Prime Minister in waiting” but it is all simply a bit of fun. That said, if the nation were to demand it of one it would be very bad manners to refuse. One is not measuring the curtains just yet however as that is the job of a qualified seamstress.

__9.__What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Tolerance. One of the great comforts of a Catholic upbringing is that one can merrily go about the place condemning other life-styles without having to sign up to the preposterous notion of “political correctness.” Take abortion for example. One frequently meets tiresome characters who say things along the lines of “but the Bible doesn’t mention abortion” or “where in the good book does it say that one should persecute homosexuals?” People are entitled to think whatsoever they might like of course, but in both cases they are entirely missing the point. Church is much like one’s school, in that while the rules and traditions might make no sense whatsoever, they exist, have done so for many years and should thus be respected and preserved that they might be passed on to the next generation.

__10.__Which living person do you most despise?

“Vince” Cable who is undoubtedly the most dangerous man in the world at the moment. One should be very wary indeed of the sort of chap who goes on caravanning holidays and has an “en suite” in his “loft extension.”

__12.__What qualities do you most like in a man?

A well-made suit and a natural aversion to kedgeree.

__13.__What is the quality you most like in a woman?

A propensity for silence.

__14.__Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Do you have any lopado­temacho­selacho­galeo­kranio­leipsano­drim­hypo­trimmato­silphio­parao­melito­katakechy­meno­kichl­epi­kossypho­phatto­perister­alektryon­opte­kephallio­kigklo­peleio­lagoio­siraio­baphe­tragano­pterygon on the menu?” They rarely do.

 __15.__What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Continentals might fall in love; Englishmen have stout socks and long underwear to prevent against that sort of thing.

__16.__When and where were you happiest?

Happiness is terribly déclassé.

__17.__What is your most treasured possession?

Nanny.

__18.__What do you most value in your friends?

Fortitude. Many good chums suffered terrible hardships after the economic crash in 2008. In some cases they had to let good staff go, or close up entire wings of their homes during the winter months. There is much talk of the squeezed middle classes, but this is a dreadful calumny against the travails of the squeezed upper classes. One has heard distressing tales of children being sent to second eleven public schools, or being obliged to drink non-vintage wine.  One good friend was obliged to budget for his annual holiday in Bali – by “saving up.” We haven’t spoken since, lest the whole ghastly experience embarrass him.

__23.__What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

One has never known misery. Sadness perhaps. Of course like all children I was a little home sick when I first got sent to prep school aged six. The building seemed very unprepossessing. It was gothic and smelt a little ripe and obviously one wants to be seen to fit in, make a good impression and get on with things; but one felt a little trepidation – perhaps. One had heard the most ghastly things about being beaten or “flushed” by the older children and one was naturally a little apprehensive. In all the flurry of arriving and departing I missed my parents and didn’t have the opportunity to shake their hands good-bye. Which was a pity – but one just got on with things.

__24.__What is your favourite occupation?

“Flushed” was when one was grabbed by the other children and held above a lavatory, while they brayed like hyenas and pushed one’s head into the bowl.

__25.__What is your most marked characteristic?

Of course one was not alone in being on the receiving end of these sorts of hi-jinks.

__26__Who are your favourite writers?

Keats was a great comfort. The other boys would try to make fun of one and so I would regularly go and hide somewhere and read Keats.

__27__Who is your hero of fiction?

One night, long after I had drifted off to sleep, a group of the chaps woke me by pulling me from my bed. Lamp-posting I believe they called it. Despite my protestations they managed to get hold of my glasses, which I had hidden beneath my pillow and threw them from one to another – until the ring-leader – who now heads a major EU think tank – decided to dispense with them through the window. I found them the following morning – lost among the petunias at the bottom of the building.

__28.__Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I remember feeling rather alone. Father was terribly busy though and one didn’t want to

__29.__Who are your heroes in real life?

Bother him – one was expected to soldier on. To just get on with it. And so one did. One just got on with it. And put everything else – to the back of one’s mind.

 

(As told to Otto English – satire)