Jacob Rees-Mogg, as newly appointed Leader of the Commons, had his first stint at the dispatch box this morning, after being elevated to Boris Johnson’s Cabinet late last night.
The Commons Leader is responsible for the government’s business in the House and as expected Mogg, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of parliamentary procedure and history, was clearly in his element as he poked fun at opposition MPs and himself, while rattling off doctrine from Erskine May.
Here are six of the best moments from his first session at the dispatch box:
While Mogg was greeted with cheers as he rose to speak for the first time as a government representative in the Commons, clearly not everyone was happy about his promotion. As he began, one MP shouted that he should ‘resign’. Quickly the Moggster responded that ‘It’s a bit early.’
Not a bad start…
He was also teased about his famous nanny by the Shadow Leader of the Commons, Valerie Vaz, and asked if she would be helping him in his new job. The new Leader of the House parried back that:
‘Thank you Mr Speaker and thank you to the Shadow Leader for her incisive list of questions, and indeed the suggestion that I should replace nanny with the staff in the Leader’s Office. I think they might be bemused if six children trotted in with me and expected to be looked after by House of Commons staff, so I won’t go down that route.’
On a more serious note, Rees-Mogg also mounted an impassioned defence of the government’s right to take Britain out of the EU without a deal, even possibly through prorogation. Mogg noted that while he took the primacy of parliament seriously, MPs had already passed laws to leave the EU when they triggered the Article 50 notification, and if anything, this would take precedence over any motion MPs passed against no deal, saying:
‘This House passed into law the Withdrawal Act and the Article 50 Act and we only speak our view by legislation, we do not speak our view by mere motion and mere motion cannot and must not overturn statute law.’
On John Bercow
In a possible sign of clashes to come, Speaker John Bercow was also the focus of some light-hearted criticism from Rees-Mogg. When Mogg answered a question on how much notice parliament would be given for government business, the new Leader of the Commons remarked that ‘Mr Speaker you said yourself that convention had to evolve, and this is one of those conventions that has evolved’ – a clear dig at Bercow’s willingness to ditch precedence when it comes to Britain’s departure from the EU.
Lib Dem recruitment
Not content with just his new job as Commons Leader, Rees-Mogg also suggested that he might be doing a better job than the Lib Dems as well. When the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Tom Brake, stood up to chastise Mogg saying that: ‘the Liberal Democracts… couldn’t want for a better recruiting sergeant for us than him, as we set up a contest between Victorian values and Liberal Democrat values.’
The Commons Leader wryly observed that ‘Mr Speaker I may be a better recruiting sergeant for the Lib Dems than the honourable gentleman is.’ It’s fair to say that Brake didn’t look too happy about the jibe…
And finally, Mogg also found time to give the SNP a history lesson during the session. The SNP’s Pete Wishart began by reminding the man known as ‘the Honourable Member for the early 20th Century’, that ‘he’s Leader of the House of Commons, not the House of Plantagenet, or the House of Tudor.’
Rees-Mogg responded by reminding Wishart that ‘I would point out that the House of Commons predates the House of Tudor, it started in 1265’ before relating a brief history of the Commons.
One thing’s for certain after that performance, parliament certainly isn’t going to be dull in the weeks to come…