IT was the French enlightenment philosopher Voltaire that first put the boot into Jacob Rees-Mogg when he wrote his now famous aphorism: “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it.”

Voltaire not only skewered his enemies in 17th-century Paris, he also understood the power of ridicule and the limitless possibilities of political satire.

This week has seen a torrent of parodies of the Conservative Brexiteer, slouching, like a snake with specs, on the bottle-green leather benches of Parliament – it was a gift to the sorcerers of Photoshop.

Rees-Mogg has been ridiculed in ways that few politicians ever truly experience – dressed-up in a Willie-Winkie hat, relocated on to a couch in the Simpsons’ front-room and made to look preposterous in suspenders and stockings, as if hypocritical sexuality lurked at the dark heart of conservatism.

My own favourite meme was Rees-Mogg lying down on the front-benches, his body resembling a performance indicator, charting the downward trend of the pound as it plunged on international money markets.

The National:

Rees-Mogg is a personification of comedy posh and so a powerful magnet for satire. He cut his electoral teeth as a Tory outsider in Central Fife in 1997, when the Conservative Party slumped to a woeful defeat across Scotland. He cut a preposterous figure ill at ease in a foreign land. Lanky and awkward, he was accompanied by his family nanny, chapping on doors trying to convince working-class voters in Lochgelly that he had their interests at heart.

You do not need to be Professor John Curtice or a student of psephology to guess the outcome of his venture into electoral politics in the embattled Fife coal-fields, one word will suffice: pumped.

Rees-Mogg once claimed that “it is rather pathetic to fuss about accents too much”, but later admitted: “I gradually realised that whatever I happened to be speaking about, the number of voters in my favour dropped as soon as I opened my mouth.”

He then went on to say that we should not judge people simply because they are posh, but even when he speaks I am ways ahead of him, rushing to judgment.

There is an inherent danger in simply dismissing Jacob Rees-Mogg as comedy posh. Yes, you can laugh at his ridiculous double-breasted suit, his ungainly mannerisms and the mini-me son Peter forced to travel uncomfortably by his side. But dig beneath the surfaces and there is much for Scottish voters to be wary of.

Rees-Mogg’s slouching posture has attracted reams of commentary this week. Among the most candid came from Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar, who described Rees-Mogg as “the physical embodiment of arrogance, entitlement, disrespect and contempt for Parliament”.

The Rees-Mogg meme had become so virulent that by Wednesday it was projected on to the rocks of Edinburgh Castle with the slogan “Lying Tories”, as part of a campaign to undermine the Brexit leadership by the campaign group Led By Donkeys.

By Thursday the meme was too ubiquitous to ignore and so presented the BBC with an awkward problem. How would the corporation respond to such visible political satire? Trapped in the uncomfortable corsets of balance and impartiality, and fearful of the power that the vengeful Conservatives have over their licence, the BBC gamely tried to come up with an argument in support of Rees-Mogg.

The BBC’s online coverage of the meme tiptoed around the issue, careful never to offend. On the one hand, Rees-Mogg’s posture “may underline the seeming stagnation of Parliament, swamped in debates and protocols... For others, it simply encapsulates the notion that the Government’s current approach to Brexit has been determined by an ‘entitled elite’ that has little respect for the traditional democratic process.”

You have to feel sorry for the BBC. Even when millions are unanimously laughing at a politician, they have to contort themselves into an intellectual reef-knot to bring spurious balance to the fore. It’s a shame they can’t just laugh out loud like the rest of us.

By Friday morning, more analytical responses began to surface. Rees-Mogg is a prominent member of the Conservative Cornerstone Group. Although best known as a leading Eurosceptic, and chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), it his membership of Cornerstone that is more telling. Under its motto of “Faith, Flag and Family”, the group is socially conservative, and is committed to a manifesto that is unambiguous in its burning desire to reel back on social progress, human rights and liberalism.

It is opposed to same-sex marriage and resents many of the personal rights handed down to citizens of the EU.

THE Cornerstone Group of right-wing Tories have set out three guiding principles: the centrality of the teachings of the Church of England, the sanctity of the family and the irreducibility of the unitary state, by which they mean Britain and not the England of their church services.

“We believe that these values must be stressed: tradition; nation; family; religious ethics; free enterprise,” the Group asserts. “We must seize the centre ground and pull it kicking and screaming towards us. That is the only way to demolish the foundations of the liberal establishment and demonstrate to the electorate the fundamental flaws on which it is based.”

It’s what the group’s manifesto does not say that troubles me the most. The Cornerstone Group is committed to a legacy notion unitary state.

By its members’ own admission it is resentful not only of the powers of Europe, but more chillingly of the powers that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and to regional government across England.

Make no mistake, the Cornerstone Group and Rees-Mogg are opposed to the very existence of the Scottish Parliament. When their war with Europe is over, there can be little doubt that they will turn the power of their guns on Scotland and be formidably funded opponents of Scottish independence.

There is a tendency to see English nationalism as a rump of ugly malcontents, enamoured by Tommy Robinson and the Football Lads Alliance, but it’s the quietly powerful forces of the Cornerstone Group that should worry us more.

Cornerstone has access to money. Like most wealth cults, its members seek to protect the sources of their money, defending the secrecy of off-shore trusts and complex financial vehicles under the name of personal privacy. Rees-Mogg himself is worth an estimated £150 million, some of it inherited from his establishment father William, who was editor of the Times and vice-chairman of the BBC.

His wealth is in part managed by Somerset Capital Management, the investment fund he set up in 2017, which has more than $7 billion under management and paid Rees-Mogg a cool million pounds annually. He stepped down in July to take up his role as Leader of the House.

For all his anachronistically posh style, Rees-Mogg is highly fluent in the modern language of investment and a stout defender of financial privacy and tax-havens, and therein lies one of the central paradoxes of his personality.

He believes in the Christian value of “to give all that we have”, except, of course, the bits that are in the tax-havens of the Virgin Islands, Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands.

He believes in clawing back power from Brussels only to keep control of it in Westminster, and he believes that the unitary state should always mean that Scotland is tithed to those who were born to rule.

This last week has demonstrated above all else that the entitled power that Jacob Rees-Mogg and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson still exert on our lives has reached its comedic peak.

Dismantling it will be great fun, and we should all laugh as we disentangle the threads of power that privilege has sewn.