Prep School Style
No sooner was Jacob Rees-Mogg installed as Leader of the House of Commons than he sent out a ‘style guide’ to staff, essentially a list of words and phrases they were now ‘banned’ from using, along with demands that they address ‘all non-titled males as Esq.’ and use imperial measurements. No sooner was the document circulated than it was ‘leaked’ exclusively to ITV news. Within moments, it was all over Twitter, and Twitter was all over it.
Apart from the idiocy about esquires and imperial measurements, the rules in and of themselves are fairly innocuous: don’t use ‘hopefully’, ‘due to’, ‘got’, ‘ongoing’ etc. Rees-Mogg could have been given the list by his prep school English teacher. There’s a weird injunction never to use a comma after ‘and’ (Twitter is bristling with counter-examples) and, chances are, that’s a hangover from prep school too.
The whole business is a fairly transparent publicity exercise: ‘Trying to think of a better way to get journalists talking about you,’ Will Davies tweeted, ‘than issuing a bullshit *style guide*.’ Even the LRB has obliged. It’s all part of what James Meek calls Rees-Mogg’s ‘rolling re-enactment of steak-and-kidney-pudding Edwardian Britishness’: narcissistic and self-serving, certainly, but not so much a distraction from his schemes for self-enrichment as intricately bound up with them, ‘facets of a single worldview that shows the actual nature of Faragist Britain’.