Conservative MP Patrick Mercer resigns Tory Party whip over Panorama lobbying claims

Former army officer resigns ‘to save my party embarrassment’

By: Nigel Morris  Oliver Wright  – The Independent – Friday 31 May 2013

A Conservative MP dramatically resigned from the party this afternoon amid allegations he broke parliamentary rules over lobbying.

Patrick Mercer is quitting the party whip and will stand down as MP for Newark, Notts, at the general election in May 2015.

He is understood to have been covertly recorded by BBC reporters posing as lobbyists who allegedly paid him to lobby on behalf of Fiji, which faces accusations of human rights abuses.

Mr Mercer, a former army officer who has been an MP for 12 years, said: “Panorama are planning to broadcast a programme alleging that I have broken Parliamentary rules.

“I am taking legal advice about these allegations – and I have referred myself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. In the meantime, to save my party embarrassment, I have resigned the Conservative Whip and have so informed Sir George Young.

“I have also decided not to stand at the next General Election.”

A Conservative spokesman said the Prime Minister was aware of the allegations and believed “Patrick Mercer has done the right thing in referring himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and resigning the whip”.

The south Pacific nation was suspended from the Commonwealth following a coup by Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in 2006, since when all elections have been cancelled.

Its Government has been accused of subverting the rule of law, rounding up and arresting political opponents and disregarding Fiji’s constitution.

But at the end of last month Mercer organised an Early Day Motion which appeared to back the Fijian regime – despite condemnation from the international community.

It read: “That this House recognises that the government of Fiji is making all reasonable efforts to restore democracy; believes that in the light of ongoing hardship being endured by its businesses, there is no justification for Fiji’s continued suspension from the Commonwealth; and, therefore, urges the Government to arrange a ministerial visit in order to help prepare for and assist its readmission.”

Mr Mercer, 56, was sacked from the Tory front bench in 2007 after he had suggested being called a “black bastard” was a normal part of army life.

Two years ago the People newspaper claimed he had described Mr Cameron as a “despicable creature without any real redeeming features.”

He denied making the comments and claimed he was the victim of subterfuge.