WATCH Tory rising star Johnny Mercer says Theresa May is leading a 'poor' government
A Tory rising star has accused Theresa May of running a "poor administration" and failing to do enough to challenge the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn.
In a damning assessment of the Prime Minister's record, Johnny Mercer said the Conservatives "could be looking at dark times" if they allow Labour to be seen by voters as the party of social justice.
The Plymouth Moor View MP also accused Mrs May of failing to promote fresh blood in the Tory ranks, saying "I don't accept that we don't have the talent in the Conservative Party to meet these challenges".
Mr Mercer's criticisms are a fresh blow for the Tory leader, who is already under massive pressure to agree a Brexit deal and face down a Tory rebellion to get it through the Commons.
Speaking at an event organised by the Centre for Social Justice thinktank, the former Army captain, who was elected to Parliament in 2015, said: "It's pretty devastating to see someone like Jeremy Corbyn try and own the social justice agenda, when if he comes to Plymouth and see what a welfare state that sapped the ambition of a generation of young people like me, who want to get a job, have a home, build a family, he wouldn't have the gall to talk about social justice.
"OK, that is where we put our flag down. But we cede that ground and we cede that ground at our peril, and we could be looking at dark times is we don't get that right. I think we can do it.
"I make no bones about it, I think we've got a pretty poor administration at the moment and I think we're facing some of the hardest challenges we've faced as a peacetime country, but I don't accept that we don't have the talent in the Conservative Party to meet these challenges and to get over this Brexit issue, get passed it to a much brighter future that will make people vote for us.
"They don't want to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, this is not a hard left country."
It is not the first time Mr Mercer, tipped by some as a future Tory leader, has criticised the party's direction.
Writing for The House in September, he said the Conservatives needed to be more "modern" to appeal to voters.
He has also campaigned against defence cuts, and moves to investigate the actions of soldiers during the Troubles.