Edward Condon

Jacob Rees-Mogg and the liberal inquisition

Trying to make Christian politicians squirm is a favourite occasional sport among political broadcasters in Westminster. The former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron was, for a season, the preferred quarry as he writhed for the cameras most obligingly under increasingly forensic questioning of his views on gay marriage. More recently, the attention has turned to Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has now endured several rounds of on-air questioning about his Catholic faith. Refreshingly, Rees-Mogg has proven to be both unapologetic and unflappable when quizzed about his faith. 

On Tuesday, he appeared on the Daily Politics, where Jo Coburn invited him to praise the many worthy qualities of Ruth Davidson, as a politician and a person, and congratulate her on her pregnancy, only to ask why he would support her as a politician and a mother, but not her desire to marry the woman she loves. As set-ups go, it was cringingly obvious and presented no challenge for Rees-Mogg, who is perfectly happy to stand on his explanation of marriage as, to him, a sacrament of the Church and not a Government program, and thus for the Church, not the state to define. 

In the subsequent exchange, Ress-Mogg was asked if he could see that his religious beliefs were “a problem” for many people and a potential bar to high office – something which he quite rightly observed was religious bigotry, that is the exclusion of a person prima facie because of their religion. Liberal tolerance has become, Rees-Mogg observed, the toleration only of what it likes.

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