Andrew Gimson’s sketch: Rees-Mogg the Tory Democrat places himself on the side of pulsating high streets | Conservative Home

Jacob Rees-Mogg is a Tory Democrat – a meaningless term to his opponents, who seek to ridicule what they cannot understand.

The Business Secretary should today have been in the Commons, delivering a statement on the Energy Bill Relief Scheme for non-domestic users, and taking questions.

But because the Commons was monopolised by a stream of MPs swearing by almighty God, or in some cases “solemnly, sincerely and truly” affirming, “that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Charles”, Rees-Mogg took to the streets.

His opponents think he has no business taking to the streets. They like to portray him as a remote and ineffectual toff, who does not begin to understand what ordinary people care about.

Rees-Mogg set out to portray, in a short video, some of the places ordinary people do actually care about. He stood outside a pub, the Grafton Arms, in Strutton Ground, a short, charming, animated street just round the corner from his department, which is housed in a monstrous office block on Victoria Street.

The fine old pub, adorned with beautiful hanging baskets, was followed by glimpses of a dry cleaner’s, a beauty salon and a coffee shop, the last presumably included so that the broadcast was not open to the charge of being unduly tilted in favour of the brewers, long such stalwart supporters of the Tories.

“We have been borne down in a torrent of gin and beer,” as Gladstone lamented after losing to the Conservatives at the general election of 1874, his licensing acts having annoyed a great many voters, for the reforms were too lax to satisfy the temperance lobby and too strict to appeal to brewers, publicans and drinkers.

Like all performers, Rees-Mogg knows a touch of exaggeration is indispensable if one is to connect with people, or even to be noticed by them. In the course of a video lasting one minute and 23 seconds, he worked up to a peroration in which he declared with feeling: “Businesses are the pulsating, beating, blood-supplying heart of our economy.”

He invested particular emotion in the words “pulsating, beating, blood-supplying”. How absurd, his critics will have thought.

But there is no more obvious sign of decline in the towns which Labour took for granted, and lost to the Conservatives in 2019, than the forlorn and neglected high street, a place of pound shops and empty premises, its down at heel buildings and dispirited pedestrians testifying to the loss of local pride.

Rees-Mogg told the camera he wants “to keep high streets like this one humming this winter and beyond”. He placed himself on the side of vitality, prosperity and commerce.

Will the King’s new ministers know how to bring vitality, prosperity and commerce? At the very outset, they find themselves introducing emergency measures to save businesses from being crushed.

But at least the Tory Democrats have a cry. They want a merry, thriving, self-confident country, where one walks with pride down one’s local high street, and turns in with joy for a drink at some hospitable tavern.

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