When brotherly love is tested by political differences

A difference of political opinion between siblings can make for awkward encounters during any family get together.

But when those siblings are also politicians, such differences tend to attract wider attention.

Boris and Jo Johnson

Jo Johnson quitting politics
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and his brother Jo (PA)

Both are members of the Tory party and both have resigned as ministers over Brexit during their careers.

But they are poles apart on the biggest political issue of the day.

Big brother Boris was the de facto leader of the Leave campaign during the referendum.

He quit as Foreign Secretary over then PM Theresa May’s Chequers plan because he said it gave too much ground to Brussels.

Jo, a Remainer like his father Stanley and sister Rachel, handed in his transport brief in Mrs May’s administration with a call for a second referendum.

Boris once insisted he would never “shaft” his brother in the way he claimed Ed Miliband and had shafted David over the Labour leadership (see below).

“Only a socialist could do that to his brother, only a socialist could regard familial ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”

It’s been an honour to represent Orpington for 9 years & to serve as a minister under three PMs. In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister. #overandout

— Jo Johnson (@JoJohnsonUK) September 5, 2019

Jo’s resignation may have not shafted the Prime Minister, but it has probably not done him any favours.

Annunziata and Jacob Rees-Mogg

Brexit
Annunziata Rees-Mogg (Joe Giddens/PA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the man PM Boris Johnson appointed as Leader of the House of Commons, holds views on Brexit much closer to those his boss now holds.

But his sister Annunziata caused a stir when she was unveiled as a candidate for Tory rivals the Brexit Party in May’s European elections.

Brexit
Jacob Rees-Mogg (HoC/PA)

Annunziata said it had not been a decision she had taken lightly after more than three decades of supporting the Tories.

And she won a seat as an MEP for the East Midlands, depriving her brother’s party in the process.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday after Jo Johnson’s resignation, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “This is something that we know across the country, families disagree on Brexit.

“My enormously distinguished, wise and good sister Annunziata has not only joined the Brexit Party but got elected to the European Parliament.

“We all have in our families these disagreements over an issue of fundamental importance to us all, and that is why it is right to put this matter back to the people in a general election so they can decide.”

– Jeremy and Piers Corbyn

The Labour leader, a long-time Eurosceptic, campaigned for Remain during the EU referendum, although some critics suggested his support was lukewarm at best.

EU referendum
Jeremy Corbyn at a Labour EU rally (PA)

But it was warmer than his brother’s. Publicly, there was only one Corbyn cheering as the referendum result trickled through.

And Piers was in good company – at the triumphant Leave.EU party in central London alongside the likes of a jubilant Nigel Farage.

– Ed and David Miliband

Older brother David was widely seen as a shoe-in for the Labour leadership.

So talk of a rift between the brothers was a dominant theme of the 2010 Labour leadership election when Ed threw his hat in the ring.

And it did at times get tetchy.

David, the elder Miliband and a former policy adviser to Tony Blair,  was seen as a New Labour candidate who wanted to appeal to voters across social classes.

In that vein, he wrote an article saying: “Simple opposition takes us back to our comfort zone as a party of protest, big in heart but essentially naive, well meaning but behind the times.”

He denied it was a coded attack on his brother.

But the younger Miliband issued what was seen by some as a fraternal warning in response, saying: “All of us as leadership candidates must take special care to continue our debate in the spirit we started out.”

The Miliband
Ed Miliband (left) and his brother David (Nick Ansell/PA)

Ed narrowly beat his big brother.

David promptly headed for the backbenches, citing the “perpetual, distracting and destructive attempts to find division where there is none, and splits where they don’t exist”.

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