Saturday, June 25

Tory MP sleeps on boat in east London to avoid obscene house prices in capital



Conservative MP Johnny Mercer Johnny Mercer, a former soldier in Afghanistan, uses his old army sleeping bag to stay warm – but insists he ‘loves’ the unusual set-up

One of the Tory Party’s rising stars has revealed how he is living on a boat in east London while attending Parliament to avoid “obscene” house prices in the capital.

Johnny Mercer, a former solider in Afghanistan elected in May, decided to bring his boat up from the South coast and moor it near Canada Water rather than rent a flat.

The set-up sees the 34-year-old survive without central heating or a shower but he says he prefers the reminder of family life to a hotel room.

The choice will see the Plymouth Moor View MP claim just £2,400 a year in expenses for accommodation – far less than the £23,000 politicians with children are entitled to.

Mr Mercer joined the House of Commons earlier this year after serving as a captain with the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery in Afghanistan.

He brought the small Motor Cruiser with money from his military retirement and named it Pippa, after his family’s dog which died in 2014.

In the weeks after his unexpected election victory, Mr Mercer rented a hotel room and looked into taking a place permanently but was shocked by London prices.

“I just thought it was an obscene amount of money for two or three nights a week and I wasn’t prepared to spend that,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“I didn’t really like the idea of having a second home in London. I quite like having my own family space.”

“I looked into how much it was going to be to bring my boat up. It was pretty cheap, around £1,200 for six months. I thought that would save a bit of money on expenses.”

Despite Mr Mercer’s initial enthusiasm the living conditions have been trying at times. There is no bath, with the MP using a hand-held showerhead attached to the kitchen sink to wash.

Cooking options after a day in the House of Commons are limited as the boat is only kitted out with a stove, meaning stir-fry is his staple dish.

And instead of a duvet, the MP uses an old sleeping bag from his days in the army – “it stinks”, he admits – to make sure he stays warm at night.

Mr Mercer said: “It is only in the last few weeks I had a moment of weakness and brought a heater. It’s not the most effective.

“It has warmed up a bit now but certainly in the cold snap it started to get chilly, with a bit of ice appearing on the inside of the windows.”

Mr Mercer has been focused on pulling together a plan to improve veterans’ services since taking office but admits he is yet to hold meetings on the boat.

He said the choice has raised eyebrows among his parliamentary colleagues, but added there are no current plans to ditch the set-up.

“Fundamentally I enjoy it. I know it’s strange but I love going back in the evening when it’s freezing cold and you have to put the stove on,” Mr Mercer said.

“Some MPs don’t really understand but I don’t do it for anyone else – I just do it for myself. When I come back it is a little piece of home.”