Agent orange and spilt coffee: we listened to Jacob Rees-Mogg's first LBC show

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Brexit hardliner Jacob Rees-Mogg began his new LBC phone-in today. We listened in

Jacob Rees-Mogg's new show on what he almost certainly calls the wireless is titled Ring Rees-Mogg. Which is not only pleasingly alliterative, but fitting as it's entirely plausible that he, or whoever he employs to make his calls, uses an old-fashioned ring telephone.

If you haven't heard of it, it's on LBC, which was the London station favoured by cabbies, but is now national, meaning it's pretty much as it was before except the traffic reports include tailbacks in Cumbria.

The man employed to handle his calls on Ring Rees-Mogg is Nick Ferrari, who describes his role as "facilitator". "I need to remind Mr Rees-Mogg that of course I did that for Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage - look what happened to their careers," he says, not unfairly. "So if you're absolutely certain that you want to go ahead with this you're very, very welcome."

The first call for "jay-COBB Rees-Mogg", as the jingle pronounces it, is Marco in Cambridge. "Given the circumstances regarding post-Brexit needs to negotiate favourable bilateral deals, especially with the US, do you think it is right for the British government to therefore be morally and militarily subservient to the US government?," he asks. Marco in Cambridge is probably not a cabbie.


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Rees-Mogg disagrees with him, citing Syria's apparent flouting of international laws on the use of chemical weapons.

"If you're talking about upholding international law and responding to the use of chemical weapons, what about the use of agent orange?," Marco in Cambridge snaps back, apparently in the belief that American conduct in the Vietnam War is somehow relevant to the issue in hand.

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"Well, that's going back to the 1960s," replies Mr Rees-Mogg, not unreasonably in this case (and the Vietnam conflict is one which President Trump can say categorically he wasn't involved in, thanks to that troublesome bone spur).

Daniel in Nottingham calls in about knife crime and is himself armed with a wealth of statistics. Mr Rees-Mogg talks about stop and search in an anecdote which doesn't really add anything to the debate but presumably has been focus group-tested to show what a normal man he is.

"We did have difficulties under stop and search," he says. "The law did allow the police to declare a zone in London where they could stop anyone under anti-terrorism powers, and they used this power to stop me when I was driving a couple of my children along Pall Mall and I was hauled into Waterloo Place. When they saw the boot piled full of children's clothes etc they rather recoiled and went away.

"I must confess I was a little bit grumpy. In PG Wodehouse terms, far from being gruntled." That's what the kids always said when they were stopped and searched too.

Ravi in Isleworth calls to ask if the Queen should apologise for the British Empire, as shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornbury has suggested. Ravi, who is of Indian heritage, is adamant she should not. Mr Rees-Mogg agrees.

"I think the idea of apologising is absolutely bonkers," he says. "You can't apologise for something that you didn't do.

"If you spill coffee on somebody you can apologise because that's your fault. If your great-great-grandfather spilt coffee on somebody you can't, because it's nothing to do with you and there's nothing you can do about it." There's probably a wider debate to be had as to whether this is a suitable analogy for centuries of slavery, but the show is only half an hour, so on we go.

Diana calls to ask about Enoch Powell's famous 'rivers of blood' speech, 50 years old and replayed controversially on the BBC at the weekend.

"Somebody very kindly sent me the leader my father wrote for the Times on Enoch Powell... and I think my father's view of the speech was right, that it was a deeply unpleasant speech, it used deliberately provocative language... and some of the phrases are ones that I wouldn't want to repeat on the radio at this time of the morning," he says.

Diana disagrees. "Enoch Powell actually was not a racist," she says. "He was a friend of my father's, who was Asian, and he was a great friend to my father and did a lot of after-dinner speeches." So there you go - the debate over whether Enoch Powell was a racist is finally put to bed after half a century. That's the thing about doing a phone-in on LBC - the listeners can make even the most hardline of politicians seem like Blairite centrist melts.

"Very excitingly, shortly after the show you'll be able to watch a key moment of Ring Rees-Mogg in 360-degree virtual reality in a worldwide radio first," teases Mr Rees-Mogg at the start of the show. "It's the most exciting development in radio in history."

This is the future, apparently. Stop the world! Stop it!

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