FORMER government Minister Anna Soubry launched an extraordinarily vicious and personal attack against fellow Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg this week.
In a pop-eyed, spittle-flecked rant, she denounced him over his personal life and mainstream Roman Catholic beliefs and demanded that pro-Brexit MPs like him be “slung out” of the party because they disagree with her and refuse to bend the knee to our unelected political masters in Brussels.
Rees-Mogg’s reported response was a lesson in exquisite politeness and a principled refusal to join Soubry rolling around in the political gutter.
He let it be known that he “thinks highly” of Soubry and thinks that she is “entitled to her views on Brexit”.
It is not the first time in recent days that Rees-Mogg has been the subject of personal abuse from rabid Remoaners.
Newspaper columnist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris stuck his toffee nose in the air and sniffed that Rees-Mogg was a “barmaid’s idea of a gentleman”.
With sublime skill, Rees-Mogg smashed that particular low ball across the boundary rope when he replied: “I take it as a compliment. Unlike Mr Parris, I am not snooty about barmaids.” Thwack!
Why all these attacks and low abuse all of a sudden against a man who until recently was an obscure backbencher and one of the least offensive characters you are likely to find in the Palace of Westminster?
One thing for sure is that Rees-Mogg is doing something right, because he is upsetting precisely the right type of people.
Perhaps the Remain side is becoming increasingly rattled as we head inevitably towards the Brexit that the British public demanded in 2016’s referendum vote?
Certainly there are signs of increasing panic – and I think we can expect more of the same over the next year.
For example, former senior members of our supposedly “neutral” Civil Service have been rolled out in recent days out to liken Brexit supporters to “snake oil salesmen” simply because we want to restore Britain as a self-governing democracy.
Just remind me – on which side of this argument are supposed to be the swivel-eyed extremists and on which side the calm, measured moderates?
Rees-Mogg’s rise to prominence – helped no doubt by these unhinged attacks – is an incredible political story.
Not long ago he was regarded as a bit of a joke – a central casting toff, favoured by the BBC to give viewers a bit of a laugh at the posh Tory Boy.
Yet, now he is regularly touted as an alternative Prime Minister, although he has remained scrupulously loyal to Theresa May.
With his Harry Potter specs, old-fashioned double-breasted suits and exaggerated, but I think entirely genuine, politeness and consideration for others, he rapidly attracted admirers.
But what really led to his rapid rise – inevitably dubbed “Moggmentum” – was his calm command of the facts and the ability to skewer Remainers with cold, clear logic.
While the likes of Soubry and Lord Adonis are ranting and raving and waving their hands in the air, Rees-Mogg quietly waits for his turn and then explains with calm authority why staying in the customs union or single market is incompatible with leaving the EU in line with the wishes of 17.4 million voters.
I think the obvious conclusion is that Remainers resort to ad hominen attacks because they can’t defeat the well-briefed Rees-Mogg in logical argument.
And there is no doubting his courage. When a group of masked thugs tried to disrupt a meeting he was addressing in Bristol by shouting abuse, he tried to reason with them – without success of course, but that is not his fault.
So could Jacob Rees-Mogg become our next Prime Minister? I doubt it. For one thing he has no Ministerial experience.
His Old Etonian poshness may put some people off – although in face-to- face meetings he seems invariably to charm his opponents. His opposition to abortion – although entirely in line with Roman Catholic teaching – may also prove to be a disadvantage.
And of course the Soubry-ite ultras in the Tory Party would oppose him every step of the way.
So I think not – but then again I never thought Donald Trump would become US president or a supporter of the IRA would become leader of the Labour Party. On this basis, anything is possible.