Johnny Mercer denies rule breaking over campaign letters sent to neighbouring seats

Minister for Veterans' Affairs Johnny Mercer delivers a speech during the Conservative Party annual conference at the Manchester Central convention complex.
-Credit: (Image: PA)


A battle of the boundaries has erupted as Conservative minister Johnny Mercer denied he had broken Commons rules by sending campaign material to constituents of a neighbouring MP.

According to The Mirror the Veterans’ minister sent letters - on Commons headed notepaper - to people living in the Peverell part of Plymouth which is about to come into the Plymouth Moor View constituency following the redrawing of the boundaries ahead of the July General Election.

Last week PlymouthLive reported how the boundary shake-up was brought about by the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) which, in 2022, carried out a review of constituencies. The BCE proposed a tweaking of the border running through Peverell to ensure there were roughly equal number of voters in each constituency.

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Initially, the BCE proposed that Keyham should be moved into the Plymouth Moor View constituency, but this was shelved after Labour candidate for Sutton and Devonport, Luke Pollard, argued that Keyham and Ford should be represented by the same MP because of the tragedy experienced by both communities when a gunman killed five people and injured two more in 2021.

The BCE agreed and instead recommended that, instead of moving Keyham, the Beacon Park side of Peverell ward would become part of Plymouth Moor View - a Tory ward held by Mr Mercer. At the time Mr Pollard said he did not want to lose any of the communities he represented but he recognised that to comply with the law the Sutton and Devonport constituency "needs to shrink".

However, with the calling of the General Election all candidates - including sitting MPs - are expected to adhere to particular election rules that apply before the boundaries are shifted after July’s General Elections. At present Mr Mercer - as with all sitting MPs - is deemed a candidate seeking re-election. Recent polling has suggested Mr Mercer has an eight per cent advantage in his chance of holding onto the seat, according to Electoral Calculus.

Letter sent to Peverell residents by Johnny Mercer, prospective parliamentary candidate for Plymouth Moor View which now fall into his constituency following the boundary change
-Credit:submitted

In the letter he wrote: "Welcome to the constituency of Plymouth Moor View! As you may be aware, the electoral boundaries will be changing at the upcoming election so I am writing to introduce myself as the current member for Plymouth Moor View and share details of how you can get in touch with me."

He added: "Every day my team helps residents with their concerns, covering everything from social housing applications to reporting potholes. Since being elected as the MP for Plymouth Moor View in 2015, we have completed over 50,000 pieces of casework."

The letter includes a link to Mr Mercer’s website, which until yesterday displayed the words 'VOTE FOR JOHNNY' in large letters alongside a photo of him.

Commons conventions have long banned MPs from writing to constituents of other MPs. Speaker Lindsay Hoyle reminded members of this rule in January, at the beginning of the last Parliamentary session.

Letter sent to Peverell residents by Johnny Mercer, prospective parliamentary candidate for Plymouth Moor View which now fall into his constituency following the boundary change
-Credit:submitted

Speaker Hoyle said: "Hon. Members have a duty to look after the constituents who elected them to this place. Boundary changes do not take effect until the next election. We must observe the convention of not involving ourselves with another Member’s constituency until that time."

It is also against Commons rules to use notepaper headed with the Portcullis emblem, or Commons pre-paid envelopes, for a "campaign purpose". The rules for use of Commons stationery state: "The stationery is not to be used for party political campaigning."

Other, MPs including Labour ’s Margaret Hodge, have been taken to task for writing to neighbouring constituents in this way in previous years.

Kate Futcher received one of the letters, and posted a picture on Twitter. She wrote: "Got this today. I know it’s not election specific but the timing is interesting. Sent 1st Class."

Mr Mercer told The Mirror: "I'm not going spend my campaign responding to smear attacks from labour activists. I adhere religiously to all the rules, and can prove it. I've got doors to knock on."

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