Johnny Mercer: We require new political leadership 2 years ago

Johnny Mercer: We require new political leadership

In an exclusive interview with JOE, the Tory backbencher aims at leading his party

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer today launched an astonishing broadside on his own party leadership.

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The backbencher from Plymouth said "we are rapidly approaching a time that requires new political leadership."

Mercer has form deriding prime minister Theresa May, previously and repeatedly calling her government "a shitshow," but this instance was different. The MP inserted himself into the equation to replace her.

An unprecedented period in British politics has seen the government found to be in contempt of parliament, subject to two vote defeats on a historic scale, the first and fourth largest in the democratic era, and the most recent insult - the House of Commons seizing control of its agenda and wrestling the Brexit process away from the government.

It's within this context that Mercer attacked the prime minister and did not deny he would run in a leadership contest to replace her.

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Prime minister Theresa May and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay leave Downing Street (Credit: Dan Kitwood)

"I do think a change of prime minister now is only going to increase the chaos," he said. "But yes, I do think there is a question to be answered. I think we're moving toward a place that requires a new generation of political leadership in this country.

"I've got some incredibly talented and great colleagues in this place and I think there is a team here that can meet the challenge of what's going on.

"I don't have a crack squad. There are some really talented people here, they're not going to be the same people you hear talking about the same thing everyday on Radio 4's Today programme. I respect all that but I can't help but feel that times are moving faster than parliament is able to keep up with at the moment.

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"Politics is not ours, it's in the gift of the British people. We either meet those challenges or somebody else will. I'm determined a modern Conservative people will be able to do that.

"We can do that with a bit of leadership, a bit of vision."

Will he provide that vision?

"I don't know, let's see."

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Johnny Mercer attacked the prime minister Theresa May and failed to rule out if he would stand as leader to replace her.

The Tory rebel said that not only was the government, and parliament, disconnected from the lives of the public, but that his party was becoming antiquated and irrelevant.

"I'm not sure the parade at Chequers that I saw on Sunday, whilst they are my friends I don't think that's the future of this party that has to modernise and get with the times and meet with the challenges that we face in this country. If we don't, other people will.

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"For people who feel passionately about a modern Conservative party, like me and millions of people in this country, that is very important.

"The weekend was fairly unendearing to most onlookers. The idea that that's the future of the Conservative party. It doesn't look particularly great.

"The way colleagues are thinking, if the prime minister agrees to go they can get someone in to do the next phase of negotiations who is more likely to favour them. I think it kind of misses the point and people are conflating two issues here.

"The prime minister is one issue, this deal is quite separate. Whatever you want from Brexit, all routes lead through this gate. We have to vote it through in order to move this process on. I understand colleagues' difficulties with what's going on but there genuinely is no other outcome available that leads us to a place where we don't have to go back to the British people and seek a fresh mandate."

The MP accused the prime minister and her team of "toxifying" local communities like his constituency in Plymouth, and that in this "new constitutional moment" the public's disillusion with politics is tipping into anger.

"Am I prepared to watch the team toxify itself in places like Plymouth without saying or doing anything about it? I don't know, I'll see what happens going forward.

"I've got to be honest, the gap between this place and the rest of the country seems to only be getting wider. This idea of indicative votes, I can't really support it. It's not going to end well.

"It's not going to produce anything different than where we are now, which is vote for this prime minister's deal or Brexit is going to be delayed significantly and the British people will be very cross with us."