LONDON — It was an emergency Brexit debate, with all eyes on Britain. But for the leader of the House of Commons, it was time to lie down.
Jacob Rees-Mogg infuriated lawmakers Tuesday night as he reclined on the frontbench in Parliament, his legs crossed, his eyes seemingly closed from time to time.
But Rees-Mogg’s horizontal posture during such a crucial time in British politics became too much for Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, who tore into him during her speech, saying his body language was “contemptuous."
“The leader of the House has been spread across three seats, lying out as if that was something very boring for him to listen to tonight,” she said as other lawmakers cried “Sit up!” and “Sit up straight!” in the direction of the laid-back politician.
Looking somewhat sheepish, the accused shook his head and frowned, before adjusting his glasses.
In a matter of minutes, Rees-Mogg became a meme.
As tensions climbed in Parliament and Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, lost his majority in a staggering defeat, many on social media deemed Rees-Mogg “entitled,” while others took his sprawling pose and inserted him into a variety of weird and wonderful situations.
After calling Rees-Mogg out in Parliament for his body language, Lucas took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to continue her takedown, writing:
“Body language speaks volumes. I’d spent nearly 3 hours watching him in a prone position & it got too much! Plus - how dare he label those of us trying to stop No Deal “undemocratic.” His Government has no mandate for this vicious Brexit - and is trying to bypass parliament.”
Lawmaker David Lammy joined the chorus of voices criticizing the Commons leader.
“The epitome of the arrogance and contempt this extreme Brexiteer government has shown our democracy. Tonight we showed Parliament will not be cowed. Tomorrow we will defeat them again,” he tweeted.
Parliament member Anna Turley also conveyed her horror, calling Rees-Mogg “the physical embodiment of arrogance, entitlement, disrespect and contempt for our Parliament.”
On social media, some pointed out that perhaps Rees-Mogg had been lying back trying to listen in to the audio speakers that line the benches in Parliament. But Rees-Mogg appeared to debunk that claim on Wednesday, telling ITV’s political correspondent Joe Pike that he was “sitting comfortably” and dismissing the online response as “trivial.”
While Rees-Mogg appeared to be relaxed amid the Brexit chaos, Tuesday was deeply unsettling for Johnson, who lost 21 members of his Conservative Party as they moved to join opposition lawmakers in a bid to take back control of the parliamentary agenda. The loss means Britain could face a Brexit delay or snap elections, with Johnson bracing for another showdown on Wednesday.