Jacob Rees-Mogg tries to limit the damage after speech to far-right group
Jacob Rees-Mogg frantically tried to limit the damage to the Conservative party last night, after he was found to have given a speech to a far-right group.
The Tory MP, who is well liked in parliament for his wit, found himself in a potentially disastrous position when it emerged that a group he did an after-dinner speech for want immigrants repatriated and for Doreen Lawrence to be denied her peerage.
"It's undoubtedly embarrassing. I feel very silly. This was clearly a mistake," he said.
"I try to accept invitations from most people who ask me to speak. I could limit myself to just speaking to Conservative Associations, which would be safe but politics, is about speaking to a variety of views.
"But I wouldn't want to be caught out in this way again."
Ress-Mogg said he had asked Conservative central office for any information about the group, including whether he should be worried about its politics, but they were unable to help him.
Tory HQ's failure to provide information was strange because a short search online reveals some highly questionable views.
The group's vice-chair is Gregory Lauder-Frost, a prominent figure on the far-right.
Lauder-Frost is the former political secretary of the Monday Club, which had its links with the Tory party suspended by Iain Duncan Smith due to its outbursts on immigration and race.
He then worked for Western Goals Institute, which had links to European fascist groups.
The Traditional Britain manifesto demands a return to "indigenous customs and traditions" and the scrapping of all "race-relations legislation".
The group's literature also mentions 'cultural Marxism', a phrase commonly used by groups on the far right in the UK and the US.
It also calls for the "assisted repatriation" of ethnic minorities who came to Britain after World War Two.
It described Streatham MP and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna as "Nigerian".
Speaking to the Telegraph about the decision to grant a peerage to Doreen Lawrence, Lauder-Frost said: "I feel this woman has done the British nation no favours whatsoever. If these people don't like us and want to keep attacking us they should go back to their natural homelands."
Anti-fascist group Searchlight said it tried to warn Rees-Mogg before the black tie dinner at London’s East India Club, but he ignored its advice.
"It's shocking that a Conservative MP would associate himself with a group which has such extreme and unpleasant views, despite reportedly being warned by Searchlight," Sheila Gilmore MP, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, said.
"Jacob Rees-Mogg has made a serious error of judgement and must explain why he appears to have ignored Searchlight's warning. He should make clear that he does not support the deportation of black Britons, or celebrate the French far-right National Front, or regard ethnic minority MPs as foreign.
"Condoning views like these is not harmless fun or mild eccentricity – it is deeply offensive and shows a lack of respect and common sense. It's yet another example of a Tory who is completely out of touch with modern Britain."
Speaking about Rees-Mogg's attendance, Lauder-Frost said: "We invited him specifically because he is a traditionalist. I’ve no idea how he managed to get through Central Office’s approved candidates list. We thought he might have been a breath of fresh air."
In a comment which will come as a relief to the Tory MP, the vice-chair then added that they had discussed immigration after the dinner and that Rees-Mogg had given an "assimilationist response".