Rees-Mogg no-show for Tory manifesto launch fuels sidelining claims

The absence of Jacob Rees-Mogg at the Conservatives’ manifesto launch has fuelled speculation that he is under orders from Number 10 to keep a low profile following a series of damaging comments.

The leader of the House was missing on the front row of the Telford International Centre where ministers stood together to applaud the words of Boris Johnson.

Michael Gove was in London after attending a series of interviews. But where, journalists asked, was the former high-profile head of the European Research Group whose anachronistic manner has earned him the nickname “the honourable member for the 18th century”?

One recently departed party official said it was likely Rees-Mogg was being kept away from the media after his comments that it would have been “common sense” to ignore fire brigade advice and flee the Grenfell tower block fire – a statement that prompted outrage.

The former official said: “Jacob has been brilliant performer inside the Commons but he has a tin ear when it comes to the values of normal people. If you are fighting for votes against a Labour party claiming the Tories only represent upper-class billionaires, he is a risk.”

Rees-Mogg apologised for insulting the Grenfell victims and survivors. But that apology came only weeks after he had expressed regret after being ridiculed on social media for lounging across the Commons’ front bench during a crucial Brexit debate. A few days later, he compared a consultant who helped draw up no-deal medical plans to the disgraced anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield and was forced to apologise again.

On Sunday, Rees-Mogg, the Conservative candidate for North East Somerset was found in the constituency canvassing to defend a healthy majority of more than 10,000 votes.

Asked why he was hundreds of miles from the Shropshire town where his Tory colleagues had gathered, he told the Daily Telegraph: “As far as I know only fully Cabinet members were expected in Telford.”

Other Tories appeared at the launch who were not members of the cabinet, including George Freeman, Jake Berry and John Penrose. Nicky Morgan, the former culture secretary who is not standing as a candidate in the election, was also there.

Rees-Mogg, an old Etonian hedge fund manager, may not be in keeping with the image that Johnson’s campaign wishes to present.

Reports have claimed that his closest aides wished to cut back on the number of upper-class, privately educated white men who represent the Tories in media appearances.

The party co-chair, James Cleverly, the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the chief secretary to the treasury Rishi Sunak have instead been asked to appear on television and stand alongside the prime minister.

Rees-Mogg did not respond on Sunday to a telephone call and a text from the Guardian.


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