Protesters shouting “Tories out” have stormed a panel discussion with pro-Brexit Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg at a packed fringe event of 500 activists at Manchester town hall.
Rees-Mogg received a standing ovation and loud cheers from the Conservative members in the room, but activists chanting with placards held up the start of the meeting for about 15 minutes, with two directly challenging the backbencher about his “despicable views” on austerity and opposition to abortion. Activists in the hall slow-clapped and several attempted to snatch the placards.
The targeting of Rees-Mogg by protesters as well as the numbers of activists eager to hear him speak on Brexit is a sign of the MP’s growing profile.
“There are people who are dying because of the things that you are advocating,” one of the protesters told Rees-Mogg when the MP came down from the platform to speak to him. “It’s not just a simple disagreement.”
“I don’t agree with that. I think the policies the government is implementing are making people’s lives better,” Rees-Mogg said as cameras surrounded the pair. The protester raised the number of food banks, saying precarious employment was “ruining people’s lives”.
“You’re welcome to talk to me, but it’s difficult if your intention is to shout and wave leaflets,” Rees-Mogg said. “This is not academic debate. Everything you say is despicable,” the man replied, before being led away by security staff as Rees-Mogg said it was “nice to meet you”.
Earlier in the day, in a sign of the backbencher’s growing popularity among the grassroots, Conservative activists held a mock election for party chairman, which was won by Rees-Mogg – at the launch of a group that will push for more power for ordinary members.
The new pressure group that launched on Monday is modelled on the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, where many of Labour’s influential leftwingers began the radical party reform taken up by…