Johnny Mercer: Tory MP withdraws support for government over historical prosecution of servicemen

Plymouth MP tells PM to end ‘macabre spectacle’ of ex-forces personnel facing charges over alleged actions in Northern Ireland

Tom Barnes
Thursday 09 May 2019 08:06 BST
'There is nothing loyal about watching a car be driven off a cliff' MP Johnny Mercer on why he's withdrawing support from Government

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer says he has withdrawn his support for the government over the historical prosecution of British servicemen.

A former Army officer, Mr Mercer called on Theresa May in a letter to end the “macabre spectacle of elderly veterans being dragged back to Northern Ireland” to face possible prosecution.

In his letter to the prime minister, the Plymouth Moor View MP said he found investigations into historic allegations surrounding ex-services personnel “personally offensive”

He said he was not to prepared to vote for Government legislation - except on Brexit - until the Government took “clear and concrete steps” to end the “abhorrent process”.

“As you know, the historical prosecution of our servicemen and women is a matter that is personally offensive to me. Many are my friends; and I am from their tribe,” he wrote.

“These repeated investigations with no new evidence, the macabre spectacle of elderly veterans being dragged back to Northern Ireland to face those who seek to re-fight that conflict through other means, without any protection from the Government who sent them almost 50 years ago, is too much.

“I will not be voting for any of the government’s legislative actions outside of Brexit until legislation is brought forward to protect veterans from being repeatedly prosecuted for historical allegations.”

Mr Mercer has campaigned against the pursuit of legacy cases from the conflicts in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq since he entered Parliament in 2015.

In March, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) of Northern Ireland announced one former British solider would face two murder charges over the Bloody Sunday shooting in Derry in 1972.

A total of 13 people were killed in the incident after British paratroopers opened fire on what was classed as an illegal civil rights march through the Bogside area of the city.

However, relatives of those who died have expressed disappointment that only one of the paratroopers, referred to only as Soldier F, will face trial.

Mr Mercer’s intervention will be seen in Westminster as further evidence of the prime minister’s crumbling authority.

He recently accused the Tory whips office of contacting former Army comrades in an attempt to dig up dirt on him.

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He wrote in his letter: “It has not been an easy decision to make. But this incident with your chief whip has forced my hand.

“It appears that my values and ethos may be slowly, but very firmly, separating from a party I joined in 2015.”

There was no immediate response from Downing Street to his letter.

Addiitional reporting by PA

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