Jacob Rees-Mogg branded a ‘Victorian mill owner’ over calls for MPs to return to parliament

Sanjana Varghese
Friday 15 May 2020 06:45
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(Getty Images)

Unless you can work from home, this week has been full of mixed messaging about what you can and can’t do.

In some industries, people started to go back to work again – and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative MP who’s made headlines for his unique style of dress and the way he sits in parliament, thinks MPs should be some of them.

In the UK, England is the only country that has lifted some lockdown restrictions – Scotland and Wales still have restrictions on movement in place, and Northern Ireland has indicated it will ease some restrictions next week.

Rees-Mogg said in Parliament this week that MPs should be heading back into work to 'set an example', as the government has demanded that other people around the country do so.

It is clear that soon Parliament must set an example of how we move back gradually to a fully-functioning country again. Our constituents would expect nothing less.

So while we must move in step with public health guidance, it is vital that when we are asking other people to work and go to their places of work if they cannot do so from home we should not be the ones who are exempt from that. Indeed, we should be leading by example. 

In response, the Liberal Democrats chief whip Alistair Carmichael told the Press and Journal that Rees-Mogg was behaving in an “outrageous” way and that the MPs in Scotland would not be returning to Parliament anytime soon.

He also said:

I’m not going to put my family or my community at risk just because Jacob Rees-Mogg has an aversion to modernity.

He’s like a Victorian mill owner having a bit of a spat because his gentleman’s club has run out of his favourite claret, that is no way to run a modern parliament.

Currently, proceedings in the Commons have been taking place over a virtual Parliamentary system, with MPs casting votes through the same method too. Carmicheal said that the whole of Parliamentary business cannot now be left up to people who are within driving distance of London.

Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have been criticised for various elements of their messaging around the coronavirus pandemic, but Carmichael and others have emphasised that the mixed messaging around lockdown restrictions is confusing.

Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland has told people to stay at home, while Johnson has changed messaging to “stay alert”. Carmichael suggested that ministers need to make it clear which countries they’re speaking to when they update guidance.

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