In 2015 the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion,
This House Has No Confidence in Her Majesty’s Government
One of the speakers was Jacob Rees-Mogg who, as a member of the governing party in Her Majesty’s Parliament, predictably spoke in opposition.
Browse online on line in order to research Rees-Mogg’s quality of speaking and, before you even get to watch this example, you have a good idea what to expect. As he had previously been on this blog, I thought myself already well versed in Rees-Moggery, but still I went a-browsing. What I found was that he adjusts his tone and pace (though never, I’m delighted to report, his accent) according to each audience. This is a sound device but only if you do it very subtly, which he does, unlike a recent British Prime Minister who by unsubtly varying everything including his accent merely contrived to make himself sound phoney.
I was also wildly entertained in Rees-Mogg’s welcoming of interjections. He habitually gives way with an eagerness that suggests that Christmas has come early, and you understand why when very courteously he proceeds to carve up the interjection. Anyone who takes him on is playing on his home turf, as he is lightning-fast and very well briefed. You can find such examples here and here.
I was faintly surprised to find that Repartee was not actually his middle name.
He uses home turf insight with this speech, because he was the Oxford Union Librarian in his day. Consider that when he brings up the subject of gin in the second minute. Also watch how he softens up this audience with gentle self-deprecation.
At 3:05 he delights in giving way to some rash person. Christmas comes early.
At 5:25 he begins a section which is music to my ears. It begins by his asserting that Conservatives believe that Society is built from individuals up, not from the state down. I am delighted to hear that he at least believes in the principle, and I concur that Conservatives in general agree, but I fear that the parliamentary party – particularly the leadership – has shown little indication of this since he made this speech.
The peroration is short but dramatic.
The Oxford Union, unlike the Cambridge Union, appears not to publish the result of the votes that conclude debates. Did the house have confidence? I don’t know, but Rees-Mogg’s confidence in himself in well-founded.