The silly season is over. The time of the year when politics goes quiet as MPs hit the beaches and go on their walking holidays. The time of the year when the media fills the August airwaves and column inches with overinflated, frivolous pretend news. As a communications director or advisor it is a dangerous time of year – a time when your organisation can suddenly find itself in the centre of a media storm simply because there isn’t much else going on. This nonsense tends to end once September arrives and politicians return to Westminster. Usually, but not today sadly.
Enter Jacob Rees-Mogg, who according to ConservativeHome is the membership’s choice to be the next Tory leader. He has this week done a round of media interviews, apparently satisfying the increased demand for his presence since his odds to become the leader and next Prime Minister were slashed over the summer. During one such outing – with Good Morning Britain today – he was asked about his views on abortion and gay marriage. These are two subjects were his views are very clear and have been very clear and public for some time.
He believes that abortion is all circumstances is morally wrong and that gay marriage is wrong. He holds these views because he is a devout catholic and his views and the views of his church are in step with one another – although not with the majority of the country. His answers to these questions today has prompted a viral reaction on social media and has had broadcast and print media outlets rushing to produce clips and copy as if some major news story had broken; “Politician restates his well-know and long-standing views” shock!
All very tedious. It proves two things about modern politics and media reporting of politics. Firstly, he is receiving this attention because he appears to offer something different from most politicians – he is cut from the Corbyn, Trump and Farage cloth; unspun, authentic, straight talking. He is therefore attractive to the media because he generates click throughs on news stories and comment on social media. He makes for great copy and therefore he has become important. Not because he is important but because he can be made to look interesting in ten seconds.
Secondly, his comments today are not just old news but much more nuanced than are being reported. He is the victim of lazy, deliberately misleading journalism. He makes the point very clearly – as he has done before – that although he opposes both gay marriage and abortion he accepts that the law allows them and makes it clear that neither are under threat. He answers a direct question about his views directly but he also expresses respect for the legal protection that both positions he opposes enjoy.
I am a Tory and I am a catholic. I understand his positions on both issues perhaps in part because I have spent most of my life surrounded by fellow Tories and catholics. I do however believe that his views are outdated, old-fashioned, bigoted and tragic. I am saddened not angered by then. I am sorry that he holds them and puts ahead of the decency and compassion which I believe are at the heart of christianity in general and catholicism in particular; loving thy neighbours as thy self. I do not believe that Mr Mogg is making a stand in favour of discrimination and bigotry – he is sharing his honestly-held, personal views – but sadly they are the result of his words.
The silly season may not be fully over but if Mr Mogg had any ambitions to lead his party and the country those ambitions are over today. That said, some of us knew that a long time ago.
Photo taken from the BBC news website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41172426