He combines his quirkiness with an aristocratic bearing. His father was editor of London Times and his grandmother was an American actress. This does not, however, quite explain his foisting the portentous name on his son of Sixtus Dominic Boniface Christopher Rees-Mogg. His sister has the name Annunziata and, when she ran for public office, refused to shorten it to Nancy Mogg. For his election campaign in a working-class neighborhood, Rees-Mogg went around in a Mercedes Benz and took along his nanny.
Rees-Mogg is wealthy, having made his money two decades ago as an investment banker in London and Hong Kong. He is still a partner of Somerset Capital Management with its $9 billion portfolio. He spurns the ideas of climate change and welfare benefits and, as a Catholic, opposes abortion in all circumstances. A Conservative colleague referred to him as an ‘unfailing, unbending, unrelenting reactionary’ and another said she would leave the party if he became a leader, but added Rees-Mogg was ‘incredibly charming.’ Charming or not, his firm Brexit stand has brought him prominence and he is now a key party leader.
What made me pay him special attention was that the moment he took office, he sent out a circular forbidding his staff from using certain words. I have to plead mea culpa and admit that when I took charge of a division in a new company, I did a rather similar thing. I was aghast at the ugly, pompous verbiage people wrote in companies, and more so perhaps in public enterprises. It pained me to read such gobbledygook from other companies, but it hurt more to find my own staff adding to such drivel. I wrote a letter to all my division members suggesting that they write simple and polite letters and avoid clichés and hackneyed phrases. Blandly, I told them that there was no such thing as business English, some esoteric thing that working people were entitled or obligated to toss at each other. There was only good English and bad English.
Instead of “With reference to your letter dated 17th of July, 2019, we have great pleasure in informing you that we are in complete agreement with your proposal to introduce the new procedure with effect from 15th of August, 2019,” one could write “Please start the new procedure from 15 August.” Clearly, “great” and “complete” are redundancies, “pleasure” is irrelevant, “introduce” is a pomposity and “with effect from” a legalistic bombast. Instead of a eight-word sentence, when one writes a 38-word sentence, it does not help anything, certainly not business. It is just a stumbling block.
Why say “It is a matter of deep and abiding concern for our organization” when you really mean “It limits our production” or “It delays our sales drive”? Why say hypocritical things like “We assure you of our continuing and ongoing interest in your current offer” when you don’t intend to buy, instead of an honest and simple, “We can’t buy now, but please tell us of future offers”? If you don’t like something, it is better for both sides to say it clearly but politely. If you have an interest, though you can’t offer business now, it is better to sound like a decent ally than a spurious well-wisher.
Rees-Mogg is an eccentric politico par excellence, and he has proscribed words like ‘equal’ and ‘lot.’ But I sympathize with his loathing of abominations like ‘due to’, ‘hopefully’, ‘yourself’, ‘ongoing’, ‘unacceptable’ and ‘pleased to learn.’ These pesky phrases mar most missives in the business world.
The patrician politician, alas, does not seem to have kept up with the cyberworld. He prescribes, like old typewriter users, two spaces after each period before a new sentence begins. He doesn’t seem to know that word-processing software is already programmed to allot greater space after a full stop. Still, I like a quirky curmudgeon when he appears on our horizon.