David Blackburn

The life and times of Lord Rees-Mogg

William Lord Rees-Mogg is an institution. The former editor of the Times is renowned, revered and, I’m afraid, ridiculed in equal measure. His weekly column in the Times has always been outspoken, sometimes to its detriment. In the aftermath of the Tory collapse in 1997, he argued that the party need a dextrous and popular leader to counter Tony Blair’s affable charisma. It was an astute observation, especially given what the Tories contrived thereafter. But his recommendation that Alan Clark be appointed met with derision. Thereafter, famous Clubland wits, among whom Ress-Mogg walked, dubbed him ‘Mystic Mogg’.

Even, if not especially, Mogg’s proprietor Rupert Murdoch was not above puncturing his editor’s ego. As Craig Brown related in the Spectator in 1987:     

‘Rees-Mogg has a favourite dinner-party gambit. ‘In my time,’ he likes to say, ‘I have met two Kings, three Queens and three Popes,’ (I forget the exact proportions) ‘and I have found none of them remarkable.’ Everyone is then expected to titter politely in admiration. A few years ago, Murdoch was at a dinner-party listening to Rees-Mogg reciting this familiar litany: ‘In my time I have met two Kings, three Queens and three Popes, and I have found none of them remarkable.’ ‘Maybe they thought you were a bit of prat too, William.’

Ress-Mogg’s exhaustive and illuminating memoirs have been published to great fanfare. Jim Crace has digested them and given them a firm poke with a good natured stick. Here’s how he begins:

‘My mother recalled that during her labour I recited the whole of Paradise Lost, but I believe her to have been mistaken.

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