Jacob Rees-Mogg: We went in search of the missing-in-action Tory minister

It was always going to be a tough assignment: tracking down a Tory minister who has gone missing in action.

But that was the quest set by the Mirror newsdesk – find Jacob Rees-Mogg , the high-profile Conservative who has vanished from radar.

The Commons Leader was last seen in an LBC radio studio, suggesting Grenfell Tower victims could have saved themselves if they had used “common sense” and fled the blazing tower block.

That November 4 interview – for which he apologised – came after the notorious picture of him slouched across the Government frontbench during a crunch debate, provoking the anger of MPs and voters.

Those incidents were enough for Tory high command, who banished the gaffe-prone politician from the frontline until after polling day.

He has not been seen in front a TV camera or radio microphone since.

He even dodged Sunday’s manifesto launch in Telford, Shrops,, where Cabinet Ministers sat in the front row as Boris Johnson unveiled 60- pages of missed opportunities to transform Britain.

So where is Rees-Mogg? Is he lying low in the countryside, campaigning to retain to his North East Somerset seat?

I set off to find out.

My journey began soon after sunrise, a gloomy, drizzly day, two-and-a-half weeks before voters go to the ballots.

To try and infiltrate the Rees-Mogg mind, I opted for the A303 rather than the M4 – no way would someone as fusty and old-fashioned as him choose such a new-fangled intervention as the motorway.

With the radio tuned to Classic FM for the authentic Rees-Mogg soundtrack, I began the 125-mile odyssey to his backyard.

The harcdcore Brexiteer has held the seat since 2010 and enjoys a 10,235 majority.

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North Somerset voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum – and it would be a shock if Rees-Mogg was ousted on December 12.

However, perhaps he is seeking divine intervention and reassurance in the run-up to polling day.

The devout Catholic has, after all, spoken of trying to recite the rosary every day.

Our first stop is Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Chew Magna.

There is no sign of him among the empty pews but outside, car restorer Phil Gibson, 60, provides the first breakthrough.

“I’ve seen him in our village – he came round with his missus and said hello last week,” reveals Phil, of Ubley.

“He seemed fine. Unfortunately he met my wife, who gave him short shrift.

“She doesn’t agree with some of his points of view.

“I don’t agree with him in terms of exiting (the EU).

“But there isn’t a single party I want to vote for.”

Phil bids us farewell and wishes us luck with our mission.

On Chew Magna high street, Sandi Gatton, 51, is standing outside her gift shop.

“I’ve seen his house but I’ve never seen him round here,” she says, adding: “I think he’s a twit.”

Butcher John Smith confides: “The last election was the last time I saw him.”

Back in the car bumping along on potholed country lanes, we spy a Tory Party stake board bearing Rees-Mogg’s name.

Sandi Gatton

Magnifying glass in hand, we search for clues.

There are fresh footprints – perhaps he or his team have been here recently.

They turn out to be Rowan’s, the photographer searching with me.

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It’s this super-sleuthing that leads us to Midsomer Norton, the market town which inspired the name for ITV series Midsomer Murders.

At The Barber Company hairdressers, Zoe Kondratowicz, 42, bursts out laughing when I ask if she has seen our prey.

Then she says something I can’t write in a family newspaper.

“I’ve never seen him, he’s a b***-**d,” she declares.

“When he was in the Commons and he was asleep (he denies nodding off), it wasn’t very professional.

“I haven’t heard him on the TV or radio for a while.”

Steve Powell having his haircut in Midsomer

Zoe’s colleague Deb Anderson, 57, confirms Rees-Mogg – usually an enthusiastic fan of cuts – has not been in for a trim.

Steve Powell, 80, a retired accountant having his regular short back and sides, wants to defend Rees-Mogg.

“He’s a good MP,” he insists.

But later, he adds: “He should never lounge about like he did in Parliament.”

Further into town, a tattoo artist preparing to ink a client says Rees-Mogg “has been on the high street recently but he definitely hasn’t been in for a tattoo”.

Hairdresser Zoe Kondratowicz

He adds: “I’m Labour through and through so I’m not a big fan.”

We leave Midsomer frustrated but soon, at 12.59pm, we have a surprise boost: the man himself has tweeted!

There’s a picture and the caption reads: “It was a pleasure to meet Abdul, manager of Midsomer Pharmacy.

“I would like to thank all the pharmacists in North East Somerset who provide such an excellent service.”

We perform a U-turn and head back to Midsomer; how has our quarry evaded us?

Pharmacy manager Abdul Rahman clears up the confusion – the encounter happened two days ago.

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Abdul Rahman in his pharmacy

“It was last week, Saturday he was around,” he confirms.

“Personally, I think he’s misinterpreted. He’s a lovely chap, he means nobody any harm.

“Because of, I think, his snobbishness, his accent and his way with words sometimes, he comes across as a bit out of touch.

“One or two of his comments shouldn’t have been made.”.

Abdul believes Rees-Mogg’s “insensitive, off-the-cuff” remarks over Grenfell are to blame for his airwave silence.

“As a public figure, he should have been a bit more careful about what he said,” he adds.

Rees-Mogg is famously well-read – perhaps he has visited a second-hand bookshop to refresh his collection.

We roam the cricket, religion and politics aisles at Bookbarn International in High Littleton.

Has he been tempted by “The Thatcher Phenomenon”, “Cases & Materials on EU Law, Seventh Edition” or “The European Union Handbook”?

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General election 2019

But Fiona on the frontdesk says: “He’s not been in at all as far as I know.

“I guess it’s the sort of place he might come.”

It’s mid-afternoon now, perfect for a pot of tea in a quintessential English village.

Yet at The Connies tearoom in Timsbury, we draw another blank.

Sarah Fan, 40, tells us: “I’ve not seen him but when he was on the election trail in 2017 he came in for lunch with his canvassers.

“We had the Liberal Democrats in earlier, though.”

It’s time to reassess.

Peering across rolling fields with my binoculars, I can see only one woman, two dogs, three horses, two cows and seven telegraph poles.

Crucially, no multi-millionaire Old Etonian wearing a blue rosette.

Finally, we go to the North East Somerset Conservative Association headquarters in Keynsham – listed as his constituency office.

But when we arrive the place is in darkness and looks more like a pub/club than a campaign command centre.

Where is he?


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