Patrick O'Flynn

Johnny Mercer and the Tory loyalty problem

Johnny Mercer and the Tory loyalty problem
Johnny Mercer (Getty images)
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Following his re-election as Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady would be well advised to start banging a few heads together. Because the Conservative parliamentary party has turned into a thoroughgoing disgrace.

We’ve all read about the 'transactional' relationship between most Tory MPs and Boris Johnson – i.e. they will only continue to back him if he keeps winning. But what the past few days has highlighted is the transactional relationship Tory MPs have with each other. There is almost no semblance of basic team loyalty, let alone that higher level of solidarity known as esprit de corps.

Currently this is not a band of brothers and sisters but more a bunch of Alan B’Stards who will deploy all manner of underhand tactics against colleagues if it helps them to get ahead. If you are a Tory MP and you think that other Tory MPs are watching your back then you are right, but they are only watching because they are awaiting an opportunity to stick a dagger in it.

Take the stitching-up of Dover MP Natalie Elphicke for her snidey comment on a Conservative MP WhatsApp group about Marcus Rashford missing a penalty for England. 'They lost – would it be ungenerous to suggest Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics?'

Well, yes. It undoubtedly was ungenerous and mean-spirited. But not nearly as ungenerous or mean-spirited as the act of the colleague who deliberately leaked the comment to the media to land Ms Elphicke in deep reputational do-do.

If you think Ms Elphicke has it rough then spare a thought for Home Secretary Priti Patel. She was one of the few senior ministers with the guts to set out a case against the knee-taking gesture adopted by England’s football players. Not only did she brand it 'gesture politics', but she also reminded people of the atrocious behaviour towards the police of some of its early UK advocates when they demonstrated in London last summer.

Last night, England footballer Tyrone Mings launched a Twitter pile-on against Ms Patel when she rightly condemned the racist abuse some England players received after they missed penalties in the shoot-out at the end of the Euro final. Mings implied that Ms Patel, who has herself suffered from racism, was not a genuine opponent of it, tweeting: 

'You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ & then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.'

One would hope that accusing a woman of Asian heritage of faking disgust about racism would be seen as an unpleasant ad hominem attack by most fair judges. But her fellow Tory MPs at least surely should be leaping to her defence. Instead, look at this response from Plymouth Tory MP Johnny Mercer: 

'The painful truth is that this guy is completely right.' 

Cue 7,000 'likes' and 1,400 retweets from the mainly left-wing Twittersphere. Well, I guess someone needed to do well out of it, Johnny.

Or take the latest uprising of virtue-signalling Tory rebels against the cut to the foreign aid budget. Yes, the cut wasn’t in the manifesto. Nor was a pandemic that shrank the UK economy by a tenth and added £300bn to the national debt.

Rather than gritting their teeth and supporting the measure as proportionate and necessary and being ready to 'take one for the team', dozens of Tory MPs can be found publicly parading their disquiet and conforming to the Thatcherite definition of a socialist: someone who is very generous with other people’s money.

The animating spirit of far too many Tory MPs right now is that the team should always take one for them. This is potentially devastating for their party’s long-term fortunes. Piggy-backing your way to re-election on Boris Johnson’s campaigning flare and then undermining his administration at every turn to make yourself look compassionate and win plaudits from the liberal media is contemptible behaviour.

Had one of these rampant egotists been in charge of HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar then the message passed down the line by semaphore would have read: 'England expects every man to be in it for himself.' And we’d have lost.