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Westlake Legal Group > Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

Ashcroft’s life of Rees-Mogg, a serious politician mistaken for a character out of P.G.Wodehouse

Jacob’s Ladder: The Unauthorised Biography of Jacob Rees-Mogg by Michael Ashcroft

All future biographers of Jacob Rees-Mogg will be in Michael Ashcroft’s debt. Never before has so much material been assembled from such a wealth of sources about the first 50 years of the man appointed this summer by the new Prime Minister to serve as Leader of the House of Commons.

That event occurs three pages from the end of this book, so here is an account unaffected by the triumphs and disasters with which its subject will meet in high office.

Rees-Mogg is often depicted as a figure who has stepped straight from the pages of P.G.Wodehouse, a comic turn rather than a serious politician. When he was filmed the other day almost prone on the Treasury Bench, this was regarded as either funny or disgraceful, but certainly not as serious.

His fans see him as an endlessly amusing rebuke to everything that has happened to the Conservative Party since 1965, and applaud him for upholding sartorial standards which almost every other Tory has allowed to slip, with even Sir Nicholas Soames yielding to the modern age by appearing in the House in what look like trainers.

Rees-Mogg’s critics cannot bear him, and perhaps never will, especially as in their eyes he is in on the wrong side of the Europe debate. They deride him as a bad joke, an anachronistic toff, a ludicrous plutocrat who cannot understand how ordinary people think and feel about things.

In the course of Ashcroft’s account, the inadequacy of both these accounts soon becomes apparent. For although this biography is crammed with “well fancy that” moments, many of which are wonderfully amusing, it is not composed in the manner of a comedy.

The style owes nothing to Wodehouse, or to Evelyn Waugh, neither of whom would have written, “the EU question was now circling British politics rather like a shark which has smelled blood”.

The tone is journalistic, as when Ashcroft says of another character, “his upbringing got off to a devastating start as a result of being interrupted by tragedy”. Expert attempts are made in this book to establish the net worth of its subject, a quintessentially journalistic inquiry.

And the greatest influence on Rees-Mogg is rightly identified as a journalist: his own father, William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times.

The father could write an eloquent and authoritative editorial on any subject in an astonishingly short time when needed. The son possesses the same ability, but produces his verdict in the form of a speech.

And Rees-Mogg the younger is quite unafraid of the company of journalists. Indeed, he seems to revel in it. Among modern politicians, the ability to relax in the company of journalists is not as widespread as one might expect.

The anxious, cautious careerist – a type widely found at Westminster – regards the press as suspect, interested only in discovering embarrassing stories which might terminate the career in question.

From his boyhood onwards, Rees-Mogg has treated the press as his ally, and has understood that what it needs is vivid and amusing copy, the more outspoken the better.

At the age of 11, he sprang to media attention by addressing, as a shareholder, the annual general meeting of Lonrho. Soon he was being interviewed by Jean Rook of The Daily Express, known as The First Lady of Fleet Street, and was telling her:

“I like playing with money. I love the stuff; I want more and more of it… I’ve always loved money as money, not for what it buys. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know the answer to it.”

Here was a child who knew the value of talking the story up. In 1982, at the age of 12, he made his first television appearance, during which (the presenter recalls) “he wasn’t intimidated at all”, and grasped that the point of the programme, during which he is seen meeting his stockbroker, is for him “to look bossy and like I’m telling the stockbroker what to do”.

Here is a media performer of exceptional precocity, who learned at least part of his art from his father, and knew that if you wanted people to pay attention, it paid to turn the volume up. He has remained a prolific performer, who has recently recorded over 30 episodes of the Moggcast for ConHome.

The actor Dominic West, an exact contemporary at Eton, said in a recent interview that Rees-Mogg was

“exactly the same as now; he’s never changed, which is both admirable and dodgy. Despite the sober exterior, he’s a showbiz tart.”

This is not quite fair. Rees-Mogg also has a sober interior. Like his father, he is a devout Roman Catholic.

And at Oxford, and indeed subsequently, Rees-Mogg was neither louche nor drunk. In a previous “unauthorised biography”, Ashcroft related a scandalous and unauthenticated story about David Cameron and a pig’s head.

These pages are chaste by comparison. Rees-Mogg got to know Daniel Hannan and Mark Reckless at university, and in 1990 was one of the first to join their Oxford Campaign for an Independent Britain.

Bertie Wooster would not have done that. Nor did Cameron. Rees-Mogg was from an early stage a convinced eurosceptic.

Simon Hoare, now the MP for North Dorset, met him at the Oxford Union:

“We happened to be sitting next to each other by fluke and fell into conversation, and that’s where it all started. He’d obviously been very active in the Conservative Party, as had I. We sort of hit it off. We were both Tories, both Catholics, so we had that in common, and you have this rather incongruous friendship, if you will. I’d gone to a state Catholic school in Cardiff, and here I was, the first of my family at university, becoming great mates with someone who had an entirely different background.

“There’s not a snobbish bone in his body. He will talk to anybody and always with the same degree of politeness and charm, even if they’re hurling abuse at him or pouring great praise on him. He’s got that very even temper.”

Rees-Mogg was for some years innocently employed getting money in the City and Hong Kong. He stood as a Tory candidate in Central Fife in 1997 and in The Wrekin in 2001, on both occasions doing far more than the bare minimum of work, but was not able to get into Parliament until 2010, for North-East Somerset.

His old-fashioned manner has long led him to be underestimated. While Cameron was party leader, Rees-Mogg was regarded as an impediment to modernisation.

But for those with eyes to see, Rees-Mogg was a rising star. As Ashcroft points out, Tim Montgomerie suggested in 2012 on ConHome that in 2020, Boris Johnson might be Prime Minister, and Rees-Mogg Leader of the House.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Aug-19-1024x954 Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP   Last month we published our first Cabinet League Table of the Johnson Ministry. It offered a sea-change from Theresa May’s embattled government, both in terms of composition and the estimation in which party members held it.

One month on and the general picture hasn’t really changed. If anything, over August there was a general upward drift in the scores, reflecting what many commentators – including our own Mark Wallace – thought was a very strong start in the role.

It goes without saying that the data for this was collected prior to the return of the Commons and the Government’s miserable week therein. We might therefore anticipate a quite different set of results in October.

Here are a few of the details:

  • Post-Ruth politics. Our survey was front-page news in Scotland last month when it showed the Scottish Conservative leader, so often one of the most highly-rated individuals, down to a positive score of just +14. Perhaps it was an omen of things to come, because Ruth Davidson has since stepped aside, triggering a battle for the future of the Party in Scotland.
  • Javid tops the poll again. The Chancellor puts on four points to take his score into the mid-Eighties. This suggests that activists are either untroubled by the Government’s decision to move away from spending restraint, which Sajid Javid is by necessity spearheading, or are at least not holding it against him.
  • Johnson and Rees-Mogg fill out the podium. No change in the ordering of any of the top three, and both the Prime Minister and Leader of the House have put on about five points to their score.
  • Gove climbs… The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is climbing the ranks. But will his ongoing defence of May’s deal, and reports that he is leading the charge against Johnson’s disciplining of anti-No Deal rebels, put a dent in his score next month?
  • …as does Cleverly. Of course small changes in position may not be terribly significant, but the Party Chairman is nonetheless one of the most popular politicians in the survey. If this continues it can’t hurt his chances of being offered a Cabinet brief in a future reshuffle.
  • What happened to Wallace? In a survey which generally saw very little movement – save for two outright departures – there are a couple of obvious exceptions. Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has seen his score drop by over ten points and now languishes near the bottom of the table.
  • Williamson wins members over. The other is the Education Secretary, who has seen his stock rise from +27 to +45 and gone from being close to the bottom of the table to comfortably in the middle.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: An astonishing level of mutual scorn on the Tory benches

One of the great advantages of a good education combined with polite manners is that one can then be extremely rude about people, but the scorn leading Tories have taken to expressing for each other is still rather extraordinary.

When Sir Oliver Letwin explained to the House why he wishes to legislate against a no deal Brexit, he compared Boris Johnson to a man standing on one side of a canyon, shouting across it that if the people on the other side “do not do as he wishes he will throw himself into the abyss”.

Letwin, sitting high to the right of the Speaker in a group including Sir Nicholas Soames, Dominic Grieve, Philip Hammond, Justine Greening, Alistair Burt and Sir Peter Bottomley, added that the rest of us “are to be dragged over the edge” with Johnson.

Jeremy Corbyn spoke next, and could find no image that conveyed such murderous stupidity. He was so dull and diffuse that Letwin, Soames, Grieve and the rest started to look a bit embarrassed at receiving support from so inept an ally.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, rose and declared that “what is proposed today is constitutionally irregular”.

He accused Letwin of “stunning arrogance” for supposing that it was all right to engage in this constitutional irregularity in order to defy the will of the people as expressed in the referendum.

And he said that if MPs have lost faith in the Government, the proper course is to bring in a motion of no confidence, which if passed could make Corbyn Prime Minister.

But the Government’s critics won’t do that: “They are afraid, they are white with fear because they do not want the Right Honourable Gentleman to be in Downing Street.”

So they have instead, Rees-Mogg went on, engaged in “legislative legerdemain” – pronounced “legerdemane” rather than in the French manner – in order “to create a marionette government” and impose “possibly indefinite vassalage” upon this country.

How Rees-Mogg loves being the voice of the people. But soon after ten, when the vote was declared, it was demonstrated that he is not the voice of 21 Tory MPs.

“It’s not a good start, Boris,” someone shouted from the Labour benches.

Johnson rose and said the people must now decide who should go to represent Britain in Brussels at the European Council on October 17th. If the people choose Corbyn, “he will go to Brussels and beg for an extension”.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister declared, “If I go to Brussels I will go for a deal and I believe I will get a deal.”

Corbyn retorted that keen though he is on an election, he wants to get the Bill to avert a no deal Brexit through Parliament first.

Michael Gove, sitting next to Johnson, became extremely animated, gesticulated wildly at Corbyn, and was rebuked by the Speaker: “Yes, we know the theatrics he perfected at the Oxford Union.”

It was indeed a rather Oxford Union line-up on the Conservative front bench, Johnson and Gove both having been elected president of that debating society, an office for which Rees-Mogg, sitting on the other side of the Prime Minister, also ran.

How will these Oxonian tribunes of the people fare in an election? No one yet knows, but to begin the campaign by withdrawing the whip from 21 Tory MPs is a fairly astonishing way of going about things.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

WATCH: Rees-Mogg claims that Letwin’s Bill “is constitutionally irregular”

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Nickie Aiken: Can motherhood and politics mix?

Cllr Nickie Aiken is the Leader of Westminster City Council.

Sadly, I have never had the pleasure of meeting Ruth Davidson, admiring her from afar as a woman, politician, and now as a mother. Her decision to quit frontline politics last week would not have been an easy one and I have no doubt her deliberations over recent months were tough.

Ruth made it clear that eight years as Leader, six elections, and two referendums, have taken their toll on her family and friends. With the arrival of baby Finn, she has made the same decision many parents (mostly mothers) make – putting their family before their career.

When I heard the news reports that Ruth was set to resign, I knew immediately that it had nothing to do with Boris Johnson or Brexit and everything to do with her son. My first instinct was to congratulate her on a very brave and right decision for her and her family.

There will, no doubt, be much discussion in certain quarters about whether she had let woman politicians down. The feminists and “women can have it all” brigade will likely say she has betrayed their cause. What is more likely is that Ruth has realised that Finn is an absolute gift and actually her time will be better off spent over the next few years being with him, serving her Edinburgh Central constituents, and not crisscrossing Scotland campaigning and leading the Scottish Tories.

I back Ruth 100 per cent. She has served our Party superbly, reaching parts of the electorate no Tory had reached for a long time, if ever. Her down to earth approach, her sharp wit, and political campaigning nous have been a joy to watch, particularly when putting Nicola Sturgeon in her place time after time. Scottish politics and politics, in general, will be a poorer place without her on the main stage.

Politics is a full-on commitment – and so is motherhood. You can do both, but there are limits.

I speak from experience having been elected to Westminster City Council in May 2006 seven months pregnant with a toddler in tow. Being pregnant at the same time as my election hadn’t been part of the plan! Obviously a local councillor is a very different role to a national Party Leader like Ruth. However, maternal guilt is the same whatever the job.

Can you, if you choose, mix politics with parental duties?

Yes, you can but make no mistake, it isn’t easy, it does mean sacrifices, tough choices. I have sadly missed parent’s evenings, my daughter’s secondary school induction ceremony, and numerous other school events because of a three-line whip Council meeting or a Party commitment that I promised four months ago to speak at. I’ve agonised over the choices I have made, but my children have also benefitted from my role and are proud that their mother plays a role in our democracy and politics. I am fortunate that in the main I can work my council commitments around my family. Being home most days after school to make supper before rushing out again to a meeting. Probably not possible or practical as a national party leader which really is a 24/7 role.

I have never found the Conservative Party anything but supportive as a working mum. I am proud to be the product of the meritocracy that makes our Party, the Party for All. This Cardiff comprehensive educated granddaughter of a bus driver has an old Etonian, Jacob Rees Mogg, to thank for firing the starting gun on my Westminster career, chairing my selection committee, and putting me through. Probably not what the likes of Momentum’s Laura Parker and her nasty rhetoric about “establishment millionaires” wants to believe.

I’ve been able to rise through the ranks in Westminster holding several Cabinet Member portfolios including Children Services, the first Westminster Conservative in the role to actually have children! I became Leader of the Council in January 2017. The third mother to do so.

Being a mum actually gives me a different perspective as a politician. I know and understand how important it is to have good childcare available for working families, excellent schools, and high quality sports and leisure facilities. I appreciate how vital it is to keep Council Tax low as rises in this unfair tax particularly hit low income households. My life and parental experiences are why I put building more affordable homes at the top of my political agenda, along with improving our air quality when I became Council Leader. I also know what it is to be part of the ‘sandwich generation” – juggling the bringing up of teenagers with looking after aging parents. My father was diagnosed with dementia shortly after I became Leader.

We must do more to encourage young and older women into our Party and to stand for election both locally and nationally. We still haven’t quite cracked how to do it and the current abusive and adversarial brand of UK politics is unlikely to attract many non-politicos, particular women to stand. I certainly don’t support positive discrimination. I would be appalled if I was selected because of my gender rather than my ability. What message does that send to my daughter’s generation? That said, I hail Women To Win as a great support network. I have not been involved personally but have many friends who have appreciated its support and guidance.

I wish Ruth the very best with bringing up Finn and hopefully having more children with Jen. I also hope that one day when she and the family are ready, she decides she misses us and the cut and thrust of politics, and chooses to return and join the Conservative Party’s growing Mum’s Army.

 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jul-19-1024x955 Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

When Mark predicted last month that it would be the last Cabinet League Table with that line-up, he was more right than he might have expected. Boris Johnson ushered in the new era with one of the more brutal reshuffles in modern political history.

A glance at last month’s table illustrates how the clean break has certainly restored the Cabinet’s standing in the eyes of the grassroots: every single member has a positive rating, nearly all of which would have put them comfortably in the top ten during the ancien régime.

But how much of that is due to unfamiliarity? This isn’t usually something we scrutinise, but no fewer than 16 of the politicians above-listed had ‘Don’t Know’ as their highest single response, with a couple more avoiding that fate by a bare handful of votes. A blow to the egos of a few, perhaps, but it does also mean that those ministers still have plenty of scope to make a positive impression.

Here are a few of the other takeaways:

  • Javid leads the pack. The Chancellor holds onto the position he took last month, and continues to enjoy the dividends of a good leadership election. Remarkable to think that two months ago this spot was held by Penny Mordaunt, now on the backbenches.
  • Johnson in his prime. Theresa May departed our table with a score of -61.2 (that’s lower than Chris Grayling), so Boris Johnson’s +77.2 is a happy contrast. However, he ought to recall that at one point his predecessor recorded record-breaking positive scores too. Fail to deliver and his standing will fall, fast.
  • Rees-Mogg makes the podium. Perhaps unsurprising, but the titular star of our Moggcast is a hit with the membership. Leader of the House is a good position for retaining their favour too, as Andrea Leadsom discovered, as it offers numerous opportunities for scoring points off John Bercow.
  • Brexiteers on top. Also unsurprisingly, Leave-backing MPs dominate the top of the table – it isn’t until Liz Truss, in seventh place, that we find a minister who backed Remain in 2016. Amber Rudd, one of the surprise survivals of the reshuffle, is at the bottom of the table. Except…
  • Davidson in the doldrums. The Scottish Conservative leader has previously been relatively shielded from the ups and downs of the Cabinet, often chalking up podium positions as she focused her fire on the SNP. She is currently the lowest-ranked politician in the entire table, most likely fallout from her highly-publicised split with the Prime Minister and hostility to No Deal.
  • Survivor spread. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a particular position pattern for those ministers who did appear in our previous table (apart from the generally improved scores). Truss, Michael Gove, and Steve Barclay are at the upper end of the table, Rudd and Brandon Lewis near the bottom.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jul-19-1024x955 Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

When Mark predicted last month that it would be the last Cabinet League Table with that line-up, he was more right than he might have expected. Boris Johnson ushered in the new era with one of the more brutal reshuffles in modern political history.

A glance at last month’s table illustrates how the clean break has certainly restored the Cabinet’s standing in the eyes of the grassroots: every single member has a positive rating, nearly all of which would have put them comfortably in the top ten during the ancien régime.

But how much of that is due to unfamiliarity? This isn’t usually something we scrutinise, but no fewer than 16 of the politicians above-listed had ‘Don’t Know’ as their highest single response, with a couple more avoiding that fate by a bare handful of votes. A blow to the egos of a few, perhaps, but it does also mean that those ministers still have plenty of scope to make a positive impression.

Here are a few of the other takeaways:

  • Javid leads the pack. The Chancellor holds onto the position he took last month, and continues to enjoy the dividends of a good leadership election. Remarkable to think that two months ago this spot was held by Penny Mordaunt, now on the backbenches.
  • Johnson in his prime. Theresa May departed our table with a score of -61.2 (that’s lower than Chris Grayling), so Boris Johnson’s +77.2 is a happy contrast. However, he ought to recall that at one point his predecessor recorded record-breaking positive scores too. Fail to deliver and his standing will fall, fast.
  • Rees-Mogg makes the podium. Perhaps unsurprising, but the titular star of our Moggcast is a hit with the membership. Leader of the House is a good position for retaining their favour too, as Andrea Leadsom discovered, as it offers numerous opportunities for scoring points off John Bercow.
  • Brexiteers on top. Also unsurprisingly, Leave-backing MPs dominate the top of the table – it isn’t until Liz Truss, in seventh place, that we find a minister who backed Remain in 2016. Amber Rudd, one of the surprise survivals of the reshuffle, is at the bottom of the table. Except…
  • Davidson in the doldrums. The Scottish Conservative leader has previously been relatively shielded from the ups and downs of the Cabinet, often chalking up podium positions as she focused her fire on the SNP. She is currently the lowest-ranked politician in the entire table, most likely fallout from her highly-publicised split with the Prime Minister and hostility to No Deal.
  • Survivor spread. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a particular position pattern for those ministers who did appear in our previous table (apart from the generally improved scores). Truss, Michael Gove, and Steve Barclay are at the upper end of the table, Rudd and Brandon Lewis near the bottom.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Moggcast. “Can we trust Boris?…Yes, he’s deeply trustworthy.”

You can also listen and subscribe to the Moggcast on iTunes, through our YouTube channel, or through the RSS feed here, as well as on Spotify and via numerous leading podcast services.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iain Dale: This Cabinet is the most right-of-centre in modern times. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

A reshuffle in which Penny Mordaunt is sacked and Priti Patel is given one of the top three jobs was always going to provoke negative comment. Patel has many talents.  But for her to re-enter the cabinet into one of the great offices of state after such a short time is eyebrow-raising to say the least.

It used to be the case that anyone who resigned ministerial office, or was sacked from it due to an impropriety would be expected to face the voters before being reincarnated into ministerial office. That was certainly the convention operated by previous Conservative Prime Ministers.

Having said that, it is truly a sign of the times when two British Asians now occupy two of the three great offices of state. There are now four British Asians in the cabinet now and two black/mixed race members. Ethnic minorities comprise around 13 per cent of the UK populations, but 18 per cent of the ministers sitting around the cabinet table. That’s real progress.

Rather more disappointingly, there are only six female members of the cabinet, yet women comprise 51 per cent of the population. Work to do.

This is without doubt the most right-of-centre Cabinet in modern times – and for the avoidance of doubt, I see nothing wrong with that at all. It is a cabinet designed with one aim in mind – to get us out of the EU by October 31.

But the view that this is a total Leave Cabinet is for the birds. By my reckoning, 13 of the people sitting around the cabinet table voted Leave and 20 voted Remain. Clearly many of those have pivoted towards Leave since, and have all had to sign up to the possibility of leaving with no deal if necessary. And quite right too.

– – – – – – – – – –

As you read this, there are only 97 days until October 31. Few people can see the pathway to leaving the EU without a deal. There are a few signs that Dublin is experiencing a squeaky bum, and may be willing to urge their EU colleagues to shift their position on the Backstop, albeit only marginally.

If we do leave with a deal, surely it would have to be alongside a slightly tweaked version of the Withdrawal Agreement. The question is: would a few tweaks be enough to get it through the Commons?

It seems difficult to imagine any document which would attract the support of both the Gaukeward Squad and the ERG. It may well be that this has been factored in by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings. They will go through the motions – but that’s about it.

If the EU refuses to negotiate, they’re not going to lose too much sleep. Any such refusal will be seen by the public as typically unreasonable, and if it leads to us leaving under No Deal, the EU will be blamed, rather than the new Government.

One factor few are considering is that the EU 27 may become so enraged by what they will see as Johnson’s unreasonable stance that they themselves may decide that offering to extend Article 50 beyond October 31 is one step too far. It’s entirely possible that Emmanuel Macron may well decide to veto an extension, as he apparently nearly did in April.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tim Shipman must be licking his lips. He has become the country’s official chronicler of the whole Brexit process. His first two books have been best-selling corkers. I can hardly wait to read his account of the events of the last few days.

Forming a Cabinet is one of the trickiest things that a new Prime Minister has to get to grips with. Predicting who will be in or out of a new cabinet is one of the exercises that political journalists and commentators try to carry out – with mixed success.

Strangely they (we) are rarely held to account for our predictions, despite them being available for all to go back to. For myself, I predicted 18 of the May Cabinet would be out – I got it wrong by one. There were 17. I was the first to predict (in my Sunday Telegraph column) that Priti Patel would become Home Secretary and that Grant Shapps would become Transport Secretary.

I also reckoned that Jacob Rees-Mogg would join the Cabinet, although I got the job wrong. In retrospect, I should have worked out that Leader of the House would be a good fit for this devoted House of Commons man. Apart from that, I completely failed to see the removal of Penny Mordaunt, but then again, so did everyone else. I could go on…

– – – – – – – – – –

I have now written two long read profiles and interviews of politicians for the Sunday Times magazine. I profiled Gavin Williamson in December, and Penny Mordaunt last Sunday. Well, we know what happened next. I wouldn’t blame Ben Wallace if he declined to cooperate with any similar article I might be intending to write!

Of course, now that we have a new Prime Minister the betting markets are already turning their minds to who might be the next one. I asked David Williams from the Rank Organisation who was heading that market and was somewhat surprised when he told me it was Rory Stewart.

Given there were 17 sackings or resignations, we can expect some pretty tough jostling position over the next few months as to who would be the King or Queen over the water in the event of Johnson self-combusting. There are quite a few contenders.

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