New loyalties: Annunziata Rees-Mogg at the launch of the Brexit Party’s European election campaign
She is the loyal family retainer who nurtured both Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg and his sister Annunziata to adulthood – and beyond.
But now Westminster’s most famous nanny – 77-year-old Veronica Crook – is at the centre of a ‘tug of love’ between the siblings after Ms Rees-Mogg complained that Jacob, 49, had ‘stolen’ her for his own family.
Ms Rees-Mogg, 40 – a former parliamentary candidate under David Cameron – burst back on to the political scene on Friday when she appeared at the launch of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, announcing that she was quitting the Tories to become one of Mr Farage’s 70 candidates standing in the European elections.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday to mark her return to politics, the former journalist for the Daily Telegraph savages Theresa May as ‘the worst Prime Minister in the Conservative Party’s history’, slates her former party for trying to ‘de-toff’ her name to ‘Nancy Mogg’ – and bemoans that she has lost Ms Crook to Jacob.
Ms Crook, who has spent 53 years as the Rees-Mogg family nanny, has accompanied Jacob on the campaign trail during elections and now helps to look after the six children he has with wife Helena.
She was splashed across the newspapers last year when she rushed to confront a group of class-war protesters as they ambushed Jacob and his young family outside their Central London home.
Jacob’s response to his sister’s defection from his party was to say gently that Mr Farage was ‘fortunate to have such a high-calibre candidate’ while Ms Rees-Mogg speaks with affection about her highly protective older brother.
‘Jacob was a fantastic big brother,’ says Ms Rees-Mogg, who also has three other siblings. ‘He would include me in play dates with his contemporaries, even though there is a ten-year age gap – I was always part of the team.
‘He always looked out for me, treating me as a more grown-up person than necessarily I was. He also taught me algebra long before it came into the school curriculum.’
Only ‘nannygate’ threatens to come between them. Ms Rees-Mogg, who like her brother speaks Edwardian-era English, says: ‘Nanny will, for the rest of her days, be my nanny as well as his. But he has just stolen her, which is very unfair! All of us grew up with Nanny in the house and she was a huge influence on all of us.’ Last night, Jacob responded teasingly, saying: ‘I plead guilty to stealing Nanny but, in mitigation, I did have first call as I had children before my sister did.’
Family bonds: Jacob Rees-Mogg, aged four, with family nanny Veronica Crook in the 1970s, left, and, right, aged 12 with younger sister Annunziata
Ms Rees-Mogg – who now lives in Lincolnshire with her husband Matthew Glanville, a management consultant, and daughters Isadora, eight, and Molly, one – fought the Somerton and Frome seat for the Tories at the 2010 election.
Her selection as an ‘A’ list candidate led to an astonishing row about her upper-crust moniker after The Mail on Sunday revealed that she had been infuriated by a suggestion from Mr Cameron that she should ‘widen her appeal’ by ‘de-toffing’ her name to ‘Nancy Mogg’. She flatly refused. She will not face a similar demand from Mr Farage, who told this newspaper this weekend: ‘We are delighted to have Annunziata as she is, unlike that Tory attempt to be lowlier than thou. People in the UK don’t like fakes – and Annunziata is in no way a fake.’
Ms Rees-Mogg still bridles at Mr Cameron’s suggestion, saying: ‘My name has professionally and personally always been Annunziata Rees-Mogg and I am not going to change it.’ But she saves her strongest words for Mr Cameron’s successor in Downing Street: it was Mrs May’s failure to deliver Brexit, and the ‘humiliating’ extension until the end of October – leading to the likelihood of the UK fighting European Parliament elections next month – which persuaded Ms Rees-Mogg to return to the political frontline.
‘Theresa May has proven to be quite possibly the worse Prime Minister in the Conservative Party’s history,’ she said.
‘She has not only betrayed her party, she has betrayed the referendum result and she has betrayed her manifesto. She has been no good at all at negotiating. It is tragic that such a successful and historic party has been brought to its knees by one woman – who was never selected by its membership in the first place.’
Ms Rees-Mogg contacted Mr Farage through ‘mutual acquaintances’. She said: ‘I have a lot of long-standing Eurosceptic friends, I’ve been in that world for at least 15 or more years and it was becoming increasingly apparent that I couldn’t stand by and watch the British people being let down so strongly by an appalling leadership.
‘One thing after another made me more and more upset with what was going on.
‘I made it clear that I was considering it, and Nigel then suggested that I could join his party.’
She said that Jacob, the powerful chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs, ‘understood completely’ why she had left the Conservatives.
‘He isn’t of the view it would be the best way for him to achieve Brexit, but he understands why I think it is for me, and all either Jacob or I want is to restore faith in democracy and to leave the European Union as was promised to the electorate.’
Does she agree with her brother that Boris Johnson would be the best candidate to succeed Mrs May as Tory leader?
‘Jacob is backing Boris and that’s his choice. It is for the Conservative Party to decide, not for outsiders like me to tell them who would be the best option. In my view it has to be a Leaver, but one they can rally round.’
Ms Rees-Mogg, whose late father was former Times editor William Rees-Mogg, dodges the question about whether she would return to the party if Mr Johnson became leader, saying: ‘Once you’ve left a club I don’t think that you are always welcomed back. Events change, people change, circumstances change. I am not going to predict the future, for now I am fighting for Brexit, fighting for the Brexit Party and focusing on that.
‘I would still call myself a Tory – I just can’t be part of Theresa May’s Conservative Party.’