EXCL Johnny Mercer: I would not vote Tory if I wasn’t an MP
Johnny Mercer has said he would not vote Conservative if he was not already an MP for the party.
In an excoriating interview with The House magazine, the backbencher also suggested his values are no longer aligned with the party and said there would be “absolutely no chance” he would be a Conservative candidate now.
The Plymouth Moor View MP, seen as a rising star in the Tory ranks, also branded Theresa May’s government a “shit show” and said he would not join her administration if he was offered a job.
Mr Mercer, a former Army captain who served in Afghanistan, said his party was being “openly ridiculed”, has nothing to offer voters beyond Brexit and would not be forgiven “for a generation” if it ushered in a Labour government.
He also launched a furious attack on Mrs May's Brexit plans, which he described as is a “classic professional politician’s answer” that pleases no one.
Mr Mercer joined the Tories after leaving the military in 2012, having been inspired by the party’s direction of travel under David Cameron and George Osborne.
But asked how he would vote if he was in the same position now, he replied: “I wouldn’t go and vote. Just being honest, I wouldn’t vote. Of course I wouldn’t, no.”
He added: “There’s no doubt about it that my set of values and ethos, I was comfortable that it was aligned with the Conservative party. I’m not as comfortable that that’s the case anymore.”
When asked whether he would want to join Mrs May’s administration, he answered: “Well no, of course not.”
He revealed that he had been asked to do a “certain role” but turned it down and added: "Look, I think it’s very clear that this current administration under this Chief Whip, under this Prime Minister, there is no role for people like me. That’s fine because nothing lasts forever.
“I am not in this for myself to get a position and be able to crow about being in a particular position. I’m in this because I want to drive forward social change in this country, wrapped around things like social justice. If the government gets on and does that, I would be absolutely delighted.
“I could just crack on in Plymouth, I’m 37 years old. There are other things I want to do as well as being a Member of Parliament for Plymouth in terms of my personal life with my family.
“I feel at the moment that I can’t just stand by and not say anything.”
Mr Mercer said he was struggling with his views as he is “inherently a team player”.
"But when you go home from here on a Thursday and go for a run across Dartmoor or whatever, and you’re stripped to your core being, I mean, yeah, you realise it’s a shit show,” he said.
"And it’s hard because people like me are in this because we believe in something, because we want to be part of something greater than ourselves. And yet, when that something that’s greater than yourself is being openly ridiculed…
"I just feel that we’re in a position now where people are beginning to ridicule us because yes, we have to get on with this business of Brexit, right, which is a fundamental challenge. But everybody outside of this place, for them the country’s not been a particularly great place…
"They’ll think, ‘why should I vote for your government. Yea alright, you might sort out Brexit eventually but actually, my operation was cancelled again last week. So, to be frank, I’m going to start looking elsewhere’.
"That really worries me, because I’m of the view I’m afraid that Jeremy Corbyn maybe a nice chap, but him and more importantly his team in charge of this country would fundamentally change Britain, what it means to be British.
“And if we as a Conservative party ushered that in, I don’t think we’d be forgiven for a generation and we wouldn’t deserve to be.”
He argued that the party would not change until it has a leader who “has won a seat and knows what it’s like to go out every weekend and advocate for what you just voted for that week”.
“We’ve lost this ability to fight, to scrap for what we believe in. Until we get that art back – ultimately our core business as politicians is winning elections. That is our basic core business,” he said.
“We’ve lost focus on that for some very good, very capable but ultimately technocrats and managers. That’s not what Britain’s about.”
Mrs May was forced this week to insist that her Brexit plan, agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers in July, was not "dead", despite coming under attack from the EU, Labour and her own MPs.
But Mr Mercer said: "f you look at Chequers, for example, that is your classic professional politician’s answer because it’s right down the middle. It doesn’t make anybody happy. It’s the ultimate in not making a decision.
“And I’m afraid, people who pay our wages and vote for us expect us to make decisions and get on with government, not be fixated on us retaining our position.
"It’s not actually about us. This country isn’t ours, politics isn’t ours. It’s the people who vote for us and pay our wages.
“I think if we forget that at the crucial moment on Brexit, and I say that as a Remainer, someone who voted Remain, I think the disdain with which people have held politicians will reach a crescendo if we don’t deliver on that referendum result and make people feel like they’ve left the European Union.”
Mr Mercer said his ambition is to one day become Defence Secretary and “rip apart” the Ministry of Defence.