Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg is one of the advocates of unilateral free trade it seems.

But looking at his constituency profile on Wikipedia it looks like a bunch of farmers and "light industry". So all these guys dig unilateral free trade? It seems a little incongruous. Are they rich farmers?

The Economist seems equally baffled:

At first glance Brits love free trade, or at least say they do. Given the choice, nearly half of voters would opt for the ability to do free-trade deals globally—even if it meant customs controls between Britain and the EU, according to YouGov. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Conservatives’ hard-Brexit caucus, can be confident of the support of party members: 70% of them want out of the customs union, according to research from Queen Mary University of London.

But this zealotry is not shared by typical Leave voters. They tend not to like free trade: 50% of them think that Britain should limit imports to protect the British economy, according to data from NatCen Social Research, which gauges public opinion. Barely a fifth believe otherwise. “Better trade opportunities with the wider world” was chosen by only 9% of Leave voters as the main reason for voting for Brexit, far behind legal independence and cutting immigration, according to ICM, a pollster. The buccaneering Brexit put forward by Liam Fox, the international-trade secretary, is opposed—or ignored—by those who supposedly voted for it. In practice, Britons are among Europe’s keenest wreckers of free-trade deals. They were at the forefront of scuppering the planned trade deal with America. More people signed an anti-TTIP campaign in supposedly free-trade-loving Britain than in traditionally protectionist France.

So is this a case of "hard Brexit uber alles" among the electorate (no matter what else their representatives arguing for hard Brexit purpose)? I want to know what's the socioeconomic profile of his MP constituency, relative to rest of Britain: are they richer, are they poorer, more educated, less educated etc.?

  • 3
    Not a full answer due to lack of time, but if you look at the gross disposable household income in the UK, the combined authorities of West of England (which contains the constituency) is third highest (for the 2016 numbers), closely behind Cambridgeshire and Petersborough. So rich farmers seems to be correct.
    – DonFusili
    Aug 20, 2018 at 8:42
  • 5
    What this tells us is that most British voters don't understand what a free trade deal is but have heard that they are great and will magically fix all the problems.
    – user
    Aug 20, 2018 at 9:09
  • Re "...related matter... But I don't want your opinion...": that matter's relevance seems doubtful, and appears to be a prejudicial praeteritio.
    – agc
    Aug 20, 2018 at 13:08
  • Wealthier farmers are still farmers. It is hard to imagine farmers of any sort wanting free trade. Their wealth is likely mostly in the physical assets of the farm; not the London stock exchange.
    – H2ONaCl
    May 21, 2019 at 5:46

2 Answers 2


North East Somerset is a primarily rural constituency, with a predominance of detached and semi-detached housing, low rates of unemployment and very low dependency on welfare.

It contains some commuter villages, and other areas with employment provided by light industry. Nevertheless, agriculture is a major part of the local economy.

The constituency could be characterised as being richer and whiter than average, and somewhat better educated (wealth and education are correlated)

This is largely irrelevant to Rees-Moggs views on the EU, or on free trade, which were developed during his childhood, education and work as a hedge-fund manager. He took the Somerset seat as a safe Tory seat, just as (for example) Tony Blair represented Sedgefield (a Northern mining seat), even though his roots were with the Fabians.

An MP may reflect the general opinions of their constituents, but need not. An MP is a representative and not a delegate.

The wider question is because the British-exit vote was a coalition of different viewpoints. An essentially protectionist position sees leaving the EU as an opportunity to reduce immigration and imports, and develop UK production and manufacturing for the local market. This viewpoint is derided as "Little England" by its critics. Many of the voters fall into this group. There is a second group that considers the EU as harming the UK's ability to develop trade around the world. This group sees leaving the EU as an opportunity to increase trade with non-EU countries, with a corresponding rebalancing of immigration. Many of the leaders of Euroscepticism in the Tory party would be in this group. That a voting bloc is a coalition of views is nothing new, and should be no more surprising than that any political party contains a variety of views within it, including views that can be antithetical.

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    I think you may want to significantly expand the "An MP may reflect the general opinions of their constituents, but need not. An MP is a representative and not a delegate." paragraph as it seems to be key here.
    – user4012
    Aug 28, 2018 at 11:45
  • Sedgefield is primarily rural, isn't it? It includes Newton Aycliffe (which has a population of about 26,000) and some of the suburbs of Darlington, but it's mostly old mining villages, I think. Nov 27, 2018 at 11:39

I think you're assuming that being elected as an MP implies a much higher level of personal endorsement of the candidate than it actually does. Jacob Rees-Mogg is the MP for North East Somerset because more voters wanted an MP from the Conservative party than any other party.

Unlike in the US, each party's candidate is chosen by the party membership, without any direct contribution from the general public through a process such as primaries. If you want to have a say in who your preferred party's candidate will be, you need to join the party, and the vast majority of voters don't care enough to do that. For example, the Conservative Party received about 13.6 million votes in the 2017 general election but currently only has about 124,000 members (less than 1% of their voters). And even then, the local party only gets to choose the candidate from a shortlist list of three from the national party.

As such, the views of the candidate aren't necessarily a close match for the views of their constituents. Of course, if a candidate's views are too far from their constituents', then more voters will abstain or vote for other candidates so, to that extent, the party and its membership does consider the views of the constituents.

Thanks to Paul Johnson for pointing out the shortlisting rules.

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    Also Conservative HQ chooses a short-list of 3 candidates and the local party then selects which one it wants. So there is a lot of scope for HQ to push their preferred candidate on the local party. See para 6 of theguardian.com/politics/2018/feb/11/…. In safe seats (like Rees-Mogg's) this is tantamount to picking the MP. Nov 27, 2018 at 7:55

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