Jacob Rees-Mogg, who won Somerset North East at the general election, used his maiden speech last night to eloquently note three historical figures from his constituency whom he says will serve as an inspiration in his political life:
"Alfred the Great, we must remember, in 678 AD, had just Somerset left, with the Danes all around, as they had begun to take over all of Wessex and already had much of the rest of England. Alfred, however, brought together the people of Somerset, Wiltshire and parts of Hampshire and they crossed over from the Somerset levels through north-east Somerset to Edington, near Chippenham, and there they fought the great battle on which our freedoms depend. They put paid to Danish occupation. Alfred was a great law giver—a man we should think about in this debate particularly, because he did not want to innovate laws; he wanted to codify laws. He wanted to tell people what ancient rights they had and how they ought to have their liberties. He was able to expel the Danes and his grandson became the first King of England on borders we would recognise to this day.
"Moving on a little later, the next great figure from North East Somerset is Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, born in Weston, a village bordering north-east Somerset and Bath. He is really the first tax martyr. He was called upon to pay the Danegeld, and he took £48,000 to the Danes, then at Greenwich, and handed it over. They said, “Mr Alphege, we would like some more, and if you don’t give us more, we are going to hold on to you as a hostage.” And Alphege replied: “I will not give you more; I will not put higher taxes on my people; I will not have them suffer this imposition.” So they threw ox bones at Alphege until he died. I hope that people will not find it necessary to throw ox bones at me, but as another representative from North East Somerset, I will stand constantly for low taxation.
"The final figure I am going to mention in this great pantheon of wonderful figures from God’s own part of God’s own county is John Locke. Brought up in Belluton—this really is a sop to the Whig coalition that we now have—this philosopher of the Whigs was in many ways the founder of the constitution that we now have, one that has as its essence the fact that power comes from the people up to the legislature, which is there to supervise the Executive. Members will all know that the argument at the time was about the divine right of kings and some may now think that we have another form of divine right of the Executive. Locke made it clear that the duty of the legislature was to check and to stop the Executive exceeding the powers, the rights and the authority that it had from time immemorial.
"Let us take these three great Somerset men: Alfred the Great, the first Eurosceptic, who got rid of the Danes and made England independent; Alphege, the low-tax martyr; and John Locke, standing up for the legislature and the people against the Executive. For however long I represent North East Somerset, I will take these three as my great heroes and hope to model my political words on their thoughts."