Lives remembered: Lord Rees-Mogg

In today’s Times Lord Lexden adds a postscript to Lord Rees-Mogg’s obituary, which appeared in its pages on 31 December, focusing on material gleaned from the Conservative Party Archive on Rees-Mogg’s early political aspirations. By kind permission of Lord Lexden, we reproduce his text below:

Lord Rees-Mogg (obituary, Dec.31) worked extremely hard to establish himself in politics, his first career choice. He possessed impressive credentials by the time he made his successful application to join the Conservative Party’s official candidates’ list at the end of 1955. During the general election earlier that year he travelled 1400 miles at his own expense speaking in a wide variety of constituencies, often at open air meetings. He also knocked on countless doors, believing “ personal canvassing to be of first importance”. Vigorous electioneering reassured those who might otherwise have regarded him as too intellectual as a result of the frequent lectures he delivered as part of the Party’s ambitious post-war political education programme, established by his mentor, Rab Butler, with its headquarters at Swinton  Conservative College in Yorkshire where he taught regularly.  In 1956 he became a prominent member of a policy committee on the structure and accountability of the nationalised industries, chaired by Butler( who he always believed should have become Tory leader). He declared that the time he was prepared to give the Tory Party was “ only limited by his work for the Financial Times”. As the Conservative candidate in Chester-le-Street he won golden opinions from the hard-bitten senior Party agent who oversaw his first campaign there in 1956.  “ In the closing stages of his campaign he might almost have been described as outstanding.  He was particularly strong in answering questions and always got the better of his questioner”.  Even after the 1964 general election, when surprisingly he failed to be selected for a safe seat, he still retained hopes of a parliamentary career, stressing that  he “ would give proper time to nursing a constituency” and “ would of course undertake personal canvassing”.

[CCO 1/11/58/3, William Rees-Mogg’s By-Election News, published during the Chester-le-Street by-election campaign, Sep 1956]

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