Mr Rees-Mogg spoke publicly of his shock, including on the BBC’s Newsnight on Thursday (8th August), of learning about the views of the Traditional Britain Group, which on their Facebook page this week called for black Britons including the new Labour peer Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, to leave the country.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I am absolutely shocked by what I’ve discovered about their views and I clearly made a boo boo in addressing a group made up of some nutters and I regret that; it was a foolish thing to have done.
“Why did I go? Traditional Britain organisation, it sounded like a perfectly respectable, harmless group of people but I clearly made a mistake.”
He added: “Twenty-four hours beforehand somebody got in touch with me and said that they were worried about Traditional Britain and I put this to Traditional Britain and they assured me they did not hold the views ascribed to them. They said they were being slurred and my office made inquiries with (Conservative) Central Office about the group and Central Office new nothing about them.”
He said it was his fault for not being on Facebook. “If I were perhaps a little bit more modern and less traditional I wouldn’t have made this mistake.”
The Traditional Britain Group responded, saying that it had been smeared with selective quotes and comments from its Facebook page. It added: “Jacob Rees-Mogg MP very kindly agreed to be our group’s guest of honour at this year’s annual dinner and he made an excellent speech on a range of issues. Only one person present asked about immigration levels etc and Mr Rees-Mogg gave an assimilationist response.”
The group added: “We are naturally disappointed that Mr Rees-Mogg has been frightened by these media smears and forced to disassociate himself from perfectly normal conservatives who actually support him. In the past 20 years the Conservative Party have lost two thirds of their members by abandoning Toryism. We are not prepared to do that.”
Todd Foreman, pictured left, Labour’s parliamentary candidate in North East Somerset, said: “It was shocking that Jacob Rees-Mogg allowed himself to be associated with a group that has such extreme and unpleasant views.
“I welcome that Jacob has acknowledged his error in the various interviews he has given over the past day or so. However, the fact that Jacob had been given advance warning by Searchlight (the group that opposes racism and fascism), and chose to ignore them, and also that a quick five minutes’ search on Google would have told him all he needed to know about this group, only serve to magnify his complete lack of judgement.
“This really is a very sad episode, and I only hope that Jacob and others will come to realise that warnings about groups who hold such vile views should not be ignored, even if the groups pass them off as harmless fun or mild eccentricity.”