Johnny Mercer: the Tory MP going on strike

Former Army officer tells Theresa May he’s withdrawing support in protest against probes into military veterans

Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer has been MP for Plymouth Moor View since 2015
(Image credit: BBC)

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer has announced he is going on strike and will not vote with the Government on any issues other than Brexit.

In a letter to Theresa May, seen by The Sun, former Army officer Mercer said that while he is not resigning the Tory whip, he is withdrawing his support until the prime minister scales back controversial investigations into former members of the British military.

“I will not be voting for any of the Government’s legislative actions outside of Brexit until legislation is brought forward to protect veterans from being repeatedly prosecuted for historical allegations,” the letter says.

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Mercer’s decision poses a fresh headache for the Conservative Party, which can “ill afford to lose MPs from [the] rising generation who have been able to win marginal seats”, tweets the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.

What’s less clear “is whether anyone will even notice he’s on strike, given this government basically has zero legislative plans anyway”, quips Politico’s Jack Blanchard.

But just who is Mercer and why is he taking this action?

Who is Johnny Mercer?

Mercer became MP for Plymouth Moor View in 2015, when he won with a majority of 5,000 - despite having been told he had no hope of victory by Lynton Crosby, the election strategist in charge of the Tories’ campaign.

Motivated by the doubters, Mercer told parliamentary magazine The House that he had secured a 4.3% swing to the Tories by targeting “centre, centre-right” voters whose political inclinations, like his own, were malleable.

Since his election, he has become known for his somewhat outspoken nature. During an interview last October, Mercer said he would not vote Tory if he wasn’t an MP.

And in April, it emerged that he was being paid £85,000 a year by a company that marketed a failed bond scheme that lost savers a total of £236m.

But Mercer is perhaps best known for getting into a row that quickly went viral with a Twitter user by the name of Stephen Knight, or @Billabong1965.

The spat began over the MP’s appearance on Channel 4 reality show Hunted, before getting more personal. During one exchange, Mercer accused Knight of implying in a local newspaper comments section that “my wife was a prostitute”.

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BuzzFeed News asked the Plymouth Herald which story Knight had commented on, but a spokesperson was unable to say. According to the newspaper, the post that provoked Mercer’s ire breached its guidelines and has since been deleted.

Why is he defending veterans?

Mercer, a member of the Commons Defence Committee, has repeatedly called for new legislation to prevent anyone accused of crimes linked to the Troubles in Northern Ireland from being prosecuted.

“As many as 200 former members of the British security forces are under official investigation for alleged criminal actions” during that period, according to The Guardian.

In his letter to May, the former soldier says: “As you know, the historical prosecution of our servicemen and women is a matter that is personally offensive to me.

“Many are my friends; and I am from their tribe.”

Mercer wants an effective amnesty for members of the security forces and paramilitaries - a proposal that both nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland have criticised.

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