Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove share a joke in 2019. (Photo: DANIEL LEAL via Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove traded blows on a tetchy day at Conservative Party conference.
The two Tory heavyweights are working the fringe circuit at their party’s annual conference in Birmingham against a backdrop of economic turmoil.
Some Tory MPs have been openly critical of the government’s recent mini-budget and cabinet ministers have also dropped out of events at the conference.
On Monday morning the government also made a screeching U-turn by scrapping plans to abolish the 45p tax rate for the highest earners
Rees-Mogg, who was recently made business secretary by Liz Truss, suggested Gove was “a bit wet” for only doing nine events.
He also branded the former cabinet minister a Tory version of Labour Lord Peter Mandelson.
Gove, who was sacked as Boris Johnson was ousted, said the Mandelson comment was “one of the nicest things” said about him in politics.
The senior backbencher has been a disrupter at Tory conference, indicating he does not support Truss’s government on a number of issues.
He criticised the cut to the 45p rate of income tax and suggested benefits might not rise in line with inflation.
Asked about Gove at a Telegraph podcast in Birmingham, Rees-Mogg joked: “Who?
“He’s only doing nine fringes, that’s a bit hopeless, I used to do 13 or something like that. Nine is a bit wet really.”
Asked if Gove was a thorn in the side of Truss’s government, he said: “No, no. He’s too polite to be a thorn. He’s a very elegant thorn if he is a thorn, no, no, no.
“Michael is one of the cleverest men in politics, a very amiable figure, who loves the art of politics. He’s the sort of Tory party’s version of Peter Mandelson.”
Gove responded at a Policy Exchange event: “That is one of the nicest things that anyone has ever said about me in politics.”
He was earlier asked about Rees-Mogg’s Shakespearean description of the dramatic U-turn as a “tale of sound and fury signifying nothing”.
“Jacob, of course, in quoting Shakespeare is reminding us that he is the single best-read man in parliament,” Gove said.
“There is always a Shakespeare quote for any eventuality in politics as I have also learned, but there is no-one better to quote the Bard than Jacob.”
The conference continues until Wednesday when Truss will make her first speech to members since she was made prime minister.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.