Monday, June 17, 2024
23.6 C

Possessor(s) is an eerily beautiful action sidescroller from Heart Machine Machine is working overtime. The studio...

Full of potential, but it’s going to be a while

At I/O 2024, Google’s teaser for ...

Jacob Rees-Mogg, New U.K. Minister, Greets Staff With an Imperial Edict

EntertainmentJacob Rees-Mogg, New U.K. Minister, Greets Staff With an Imperial Edict

LONDON — In one of his first acts as the leader of Britain’s House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg this past week laid down a few rules for written communication by civil servants who work in his office.

“Non-titled males” must be addressed as “Esq.” All measurements should be imperial, not metric. Two spaces should follow a period. And 18 words or phrases, including “very,” “got,” “ongoing,” “equal,” “unacceptable” and “I am pleased to learn” were now banned.

His memo made its way to the broadcaster ITV, which published excerpts on Friday, prompting a wave of grammatical discussion and political mockery that had yet to subside a day later.

Leader of the House is Mr. Rees-Mogg’s first cabinet-level position, as part of the team of hard-line Brexit enthusiasts appointed this past week by Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson. But this latest controversy is far from Mr. Rees-Mogg’s first time as a social-media sensation.

[Read The Times’s profile of Mr. Rees-Mogg.]

His side-parted hair, his languid speaking style and his baggy double-breasted suits give Mr. Rees-Mogg, a longtime lawmaker, an incongruously prewar air, observers say. His studied eccentricities have inspired memes, online quizzes and T-shirts. For many on the left, however, his highly conservative views on topics including welfare, climate change and abortion are beyond a joke.

And in the years since Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union, Mr. Rees-Mogg, the chairman of a caucus of euroskeptic legislators, has become a force to be reckoned with. His name even came up among possible successors to Theresa May, when the previous prime minister’s Brexit plan began to unravel in Parliament.

In November, after Mr. Rees-Mogg called for Mrs. May to resign, the prospect of his moving closer to power prompted Twitter users to shower him with very British insults. This spring, he capitalized on his growing fame by publishing a volume of history, “The Victorians,” to savage reviews.

Mr. Rees-Mogg has told The New York Times that journalists typically write about him when they have nothing else to report. That may soon change: Mr. Johnson has promised to achieve Brexit by Oct. 31, with or without an agreement, and his House leader will have to pilot the required legislation through a Parliament that has repeatedly voted to oppose no-deal Brexit.

For now, Mr. Rees-Mogg’s style rules made at least one front page, that of The Daily Telegraph, and the top of the most-read list on The Guardian’s website.

He was not the only new minister to issue stringent rules. The new transport secretary, Grant Shapps, who once declared on Twitter that he had read the entire 585-page Brexit withdrawal document in one sitting, sent an email to staff limiting submissions to two pages, The Yorkshire Post reported.

New ministers in previous administrations have issued eyebrow-raising demands, too. Liam Byrne, a Treasury official under a previous Labour government, found himself a subject of mockery after a memo specifying a font size for briefing documents and a schedule for bringing him soup and coffee.

Britain standardized a set of imperial measurements in the 19th century, and some remain in use in a few countries, mostly its former colonies, alongside the related set of customary measurements codified in the United States. But Britain has moved toward the metric system for most purposes in recent decades.

Since 1995, British stores have been legally required to use the metric system for most weights and volumes, a decision that remains a sore point for some euroskeptics like Mr. Rees-Mogg.

Shopkeepers who were fined for refusing to use the new system became known as “metric martyrs,” and euroskeptics have campaigned for them to receive a royal pardon.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles