Two for the ages

The combination of intelligence with integrity is rare, but it does happen, and a friend points to Jacob Rees-Mogg in the British House of Commons. My curiosity for what goes on in that chamber has waned over the years, but I had noticed this unusual man in news dispatches, and found myself alertly attending all of a 32-minute speech (this one), on my friend’s instruction. It is worth hearing, on several levels, not least for an example of extemporaneous elocution in the best Parliamentary tradition.

Content is crucial in all communication, however. The speech expounds what “Brexit” is really about, and why it must be pursued, not for some short-term economic advantage, but to save what remains of the British constitution from the overriding tyranny of the European Union. I don’t entirely agree with Rees-Mogg’s arguments (I do not worship at the shrine of Magna Carta); but he takes the matter back more than seven hundred years, and that is the right time frame in which to discuss matters of real significance. Moreover, he puts it in the light of human will and freedom.

An English Catholic, and a genuine patriot; how often these two supposed irreconcilables have gone together, in the spirit of Saint Thomas More.

Rees-Mogg’s speech was delivered, as one might expect, to a House almost empty. Politicians tend to avoid such places, except in the grandstanding moments, and journalists, too, stay away, unless some vulgar theatre can be promised, and the bombast is running high.

But God works in mysterious ways, and among His eccentricities is work through individual men and women, to whom no one appears to be listening. History is guided by devils; but against them God has arrayed a few hidden, yet effective saints. We can hardly know the true αἰτία or “cause” of much that happens around us, far distant from any final cause; the “butterfly sneeze” that changes the course of events.

Now, Rees-Mogg has been noticed by a fairly large public, who love or hate him in the usual partisan ways. Within the British Commons I see that, according to some poll, he is the man most Conservative members would choose as their leader, were it up to them. In the old days of Westminster, party leaders were chosen by the sitting MPs — by the people most familiar with the candidates, and thus best able to make a sound judgement. Today, they are chosen by immense electronic mobs, who don’t know the candidates at all, and are drawn towards the puffiest bladders.

But the man himself does not covet the job. He does not consider himself a serious candidate for any ministerial office, and states that his ambition to contribute usefully to public debate is already fulfilled. His constituents in North East Somerset appreciate him; he is grateful to them, and that is enough. He is not opposed to ambition; but won’t let improbables go to his head. For he has a cool head and a steady hand, and he is not the sort who can be corrupted.

There are people like that, still; God has contrived that there always will be.


Another on my current hero list is a certain Lindsay Shepherd, age twenty-two, a grad student and teaching assistant in one of Ontario’s fifth-rate universities. Under cowardly attack from the faceless wonders who impose “political correctness” on campus life, she had the wit to sound-record their disciplinary “hearing,” then post it without comment on YouTube. She sobs at one point during the inquisition, from the stress of their grilling, but she stands her ground. (One might start searching here.)

One little person; against the massing ranks of drivelling poltroons, “dressed in a little authority.” One small, quiet, honest, and courageous person, willing to take the consequences for doing the right thing. And she has set in motion their worst nightmare: the truth, on public display. (What I once thought journalism should be.)

Thank God for her; thank God for all her kind.