What do Jeremy Corbyn and Jacob Rees-Mogg have in common? They are both Ronseal politicians. In an age of spin and bluster where the word ‘politician’ has become a synonym for ‘liar’ and where treating the electorate with a contempt that would embarrass a village idiot has become the norm; they both stand out as people who are genuinely what they appear to be. They do what it says on the tin.
Jacob Rees Mogg is an Eton-educated eurosceptic Tory whose style and physical appearance have barely changed since his days at Eton. There is even an oil painting of him at the school to document the beginning of his ascent to greatness. Not only is he proud of having a nanny, he boasted about taking her canvassing with him.
He lives in a stately home and Chancellor Phillip Hammond recently shelled out £7.6m of taxpayer’s money to refurbish his mother-in-law’s gaff, the largest residential house in England. He gives his children Latin names like Sixtus.
No “call me Dave” mateyness for for Jacob, no Boris style flip-flopping depending on which view will further propel his ascent to number 10. The living embodiment of Sebastian Flyte from “Brideshead Revisted”, he is basically posh and proud of it.
There has been a groundswell of support amongst the Wannabe posh boys to support any future leadership bid. I don’t know if Rees-Mogg joined one of those dining societies which require members burn money in front of beggars as an initiation rite, but you can bet if he did he would have done it properly with a crisp £50 note and not on the cheap with a twenty.
Jeremy Corbyn has a thirty-plus year track record of voting with his principles and if this clashed with party policies then so be it. He was willing to face arrest at anti-apartheid demonstrations and more than willing to spend his whole political life on the back benches if it meant doing what he believed in.
He likes spotting manhole covers and making jam and is not in the slightest bit bothered if it makes him seem uncool. He is a man at peace with himself and at home is it in his own skin. He was and is that most rare and feared beast, an honest politician.
As he travelled the country outlining his beliefs, the enthusiasm around him and his policies grew exponentially; culminating in two hundred thousand people chanting his name at Glastonbury (oh and one of the greatest general elect election upsets in my lifetime).
He was not expected to win the Leadership in 2015 but once people actually heard him speak they warmed to him. It’s the ultimate backhanded compliment that Wimbledon officials have announced in advance that his name must not be chanted!
I heard him in Manchester during the hustings for the (wholly unnecessary) 2016 leadership campaign. He has a simple style, he tells it like it is and demonstrates a real joy in being around people. Those who claimed he was not a leader simply didn’t understand that there are many leadership styles. One of the most successful is a humble person leading by principled example. My reaction to him; for the first time in my life I joined a political party.
The contrast between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May at the general election hustings was staggering. Here was a person so ill at ease in her own skin that she seemed to positively squirm. Her face seemed engaged in civil war. Her eyes never wavered but her mouth seemed to be trying to escape via a series of weird grimaces. The public saw through her so quickly that she had to be hidden away like a deranged relative in the attic for the latter part of the campaign.
Margaret Thatcher reputedly said being a successful politician was all about sincerity “fake that and you’ve got it made”. Tony Blair, her ideological heir arguably just about managed to get away with it; for a while anyway. If I had a fiver for every time he said “I sincerely believe” I’d be a rich woman today.
To be Prime Minister you have to convince the voting public that you and your party have their best interests at heart. Rees-Mogg is anti same-sex marriage, pro zero-hours contracts and pro Donald Trump.
Although the Labour Party manifesto is not a recital of all Jeremy Corbyn’s personal views there is a huge overlap and many see the turning point in the 2017 General Election as the publication of that manifesto. He would renationalise utilities and railways, end zero-hours contracts and scrap student tuition fees.
I respect both as honest politicians but I don’t want to be represented by the Honourable member for the early 20th Century. Britain has moved on, it never was the Bobbies on bicycles idyll that Rees Mogg and his ilk hark back to. Nostalgia is no basis for a political movement. Rees Mogg is simply a more honest version of Cameron, Osborne and Boris Johnson. But in the end honesty isn’t enough. Compassion is also essential and this is where they differ. No matter what they were told at Eton, they are not born to rule. Corbyn will have the last word because tomorrow belongs to the many not the few.
Marcia Hutchinson MBE is a former lawyer and publisher of culturally diverse educational resources.