Although Damian Green has insisted Theresa May will lead the party into the next election, this hasn’t stopped Jacob Rees-Mogg receiving the first ‘official endorsement’ for leader. Last night, Activate – the questionable attempt at a ‘Tory momentum’ – announced that it was backing the Moggster. Given that this grassroots movement is yet to take off, it’s unlikely to cause CCHQ much concern just yet. However, today’s Conservative Home survey might.
In a sign that Moggmentum isn’t just confined to Facebook groups, Jacob Rees-Mogg has topped ConHome’s Next Tory Leader survey of party members. A candidate by the name of ‘other’ comes a close second, while David Davis is now third favourite followed by Dominic Raab – a justice minister. This means three of the top four spots are held by people who don’t sit round the Cabinet table.
ConHome editor Paul Goodman puts the result down to Mogg being ‘the beneficiary of party member disillusion with the present senior options for replacing May’. The Corbyn factor has played into Mogg’s favour too as members see him as possessing the ‘authenticity’ gene that seems mandatory for any leader nowadays.
While it’s an impressive feat that Rees-Mogg has surged so far ahead, the Conservative backbencher was always likely to be popular with grassroots supporters. As a smart and witty Brexiteer with traditional Conservative values, he’s hardly a step outside the comfort zone. But the reason why it remains very unlikely he will be the next Tory leader is that it’s hard to see how he could get to the membership in the first place. The way a Conservative leadership contest works – so that a candidate has to survive rounds of votes by MPs – means that rogue candidates tend to be ousted early on. And at the moment, there is no trace of Moggmentum in the Palace of Westminster.
More striking is the fact that ‘other’ is second – beating all other candidates. This suggests that members are not locked on Rees-Mogg. They can get behind another candidate – just none of the above. With Rees-Mogg tipped for a promotion in the next Cabinet reshuffle, May ought to start working out which other fresh faces are deserving of a bigger platform. Sticking with the Old Guard will only fuel Moggmentum – and if there are no other candidates that appeal when the time comes, members will likely smell a stitch-up if Rees-Mogg is left off the ballot slip.