It seems hardly possible to credit but it is impossible to ignore. Had one predicted it in 2010 it would have been thought the forecast of a deranged mind, and even on the eve of the Brexit referendum no serious political commentator would have given the idea credence. Yet the fact remains: Jacob Rees-Mogg is favourite to be the next Conservative leader – and, therefore, Prime Minister.

At the time of writing Rees-Mogg is at 7/2 with all the major bookmakers. It seems as if one can’t open a newspaper or political magazine without finding a interview with, attack on or profile of the man (forgive me, reader, for adding to that library).

Were he to become Prime Minister – and that conditional is a heavy one – he would be the first Catholic holder of that office in our nation’s history. It’s not unreasonable to ask, then, whether he is now, or could shortly become, the most powerful Catholic in Britain, and to enquire how he arrived at this startlingly unexpected position.

Rees-Mogg’s religious upbringing was resoundingly normal for a man of his background. Catechised by his governess as a child, he was taken to Mass each week at his parish church in Somerset, the Church of the Holy Ghost, Midsomer Norton.

Rees-Mogg has spoken about his distinct lack of enthusiasm for the faith when a child. “I didn’t particularly like going when I was little,” he recalled in an interview with this magazine five years ago, “and I remember one week we had to go in London because we were there for the weekend, and I was very puzzled, somewhat put out, because it said every week in the Creed that we believed in ‘one holy Catholic Church’. I couldn’t understand how that allowed us to go in London. I thought I was being swindled and I should have got a weekend off.”

This is somewhat at odds with the perception of his being almost monk-like in his devotion, attending Mass daily and exhibiting extreme piety. It seems his feelings about religion varied, in common with most Catholic children, from boredom to apathy depending on the season.

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