Guido Fawkes has a disturbing video of a protest outside the home of Jacob Rees-Mogg from yesterday. There are demonstrators bearing a banner, at least one of whom is wearing a mask, and police officers are there. One of the demonstrators harangues Rees-Mogg before turning on his children and shouting at them: ‘Your daddy is a totally horrible person. Lots of people don’t like your daddy, you know that? No, he’s probably not told you about that. Lots of people hate him.’ The same man then begins sarcastically interrogating the children’s nanny about her pay and conditions. When she tries to assure him the Rees-Moggs are good employers, he tells her she has Stockholm Syndrome.
I should note before going any further that I disagree with Jacob Rees-Mogg on almost everything. In fact, you might say I floccinaucinihilipilificate his worldview. I’ve even written this about him:
‘There is a genre of right-winger who never grows out of the theatrical Toryism of their student days and the boozy dinners that demand sound opinions and sounder constitutions. Their taste in claret improves with age but their ideological palate never advances beyond dry revanchism and the ideological machismo of competitive contrarianism. Mr Rees-Mogg goes down well with Tory students because his worldview is theirs: a thump of the table and a cry of ‘no left turn.’’
So, not a fan. And I would chalk this incident up to fringe leftists taking direct action a bit too far but for three considerations. First, and I would have thought this would be a matter of universal agreement, aren’t people’s kids off-limits? Is it now okay to hector young children outside their home because you don’t like their father’s politics? When did that happen?
Second, there are ample opportunities to protest Rees-Mogg in person. Stand outside any TV studio in the Greater London area and you’re bound to bump into him at some point. The man makes Nigel Farage look camera-shy. Picketing his home erases the line between his professional and personal life and disregards an idea most would subscribe to — namely, that whoever we are, whatever we do, however much fame or notoriety we enjoy, our home should be a sanctuary for us and our families. Turning up on an MP’s doorstep is an unsettling and intimidating act. There is an implied subtext: Look how easy it is to find out where you live.
Third, my initial instinct to dismiss this as a silly kerfuffle bothers me. Would I have reacted the same way if this had been Anna Soubry and bellowing Brexiteers? Would I merely roll my eyes if Rees-Mogg was a Labour MP being doorstepped by aggressive right-wing campaigners? On both counts I would not and I suspect others are in the same position. We need analogy to unlock our empathy and that is a bad place to be in. The rigid, unfeeling politics we have chosen brooks no dissent so that those who disagree with us become by necessity wicked and venal. Nothing good has come of this so far and nothing good will.
Politics is not Sunday school. More often than not, it is where human nature goes to roam free and ill-will is indulged as a pastime. There are still boundaries though; or at least there ought to be. Hate Jacob Rees-Mogg all you want but do his children really need to know?