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

Tory minister Johnny Mercer has denied breaking Commons rules by sending campaign material to constituents of neighbouring MPs.

The Veterans’ minister sent letters, on Commons headed notepaper, to people living in parts of Plymouth that will come under his current seat after boundaries are re-drawn for July’s General Elections. But Mr Mercer won’t be the MP there by the time their homes are part of the constituency – he’ll be a candidate seeking re-election.

Polls suggest Mr Mercer is facing the boot at July’s election – with just an 8% chance of holding on to the seat, according to Electoral Calculus.

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”.

The letter includes a link to Mr Mercer’s website, which currently displays a photo of him along with the words “VOTE FOR JOHNNY” in large letters. 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.

“Hon. Members have a duty to look after the constituents who elected them to this place,” he said. “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’s 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 rapped 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 responded: “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.”