He’s a former army captain turned Tory MP who promised his constituents a fresh approach to politics.
But despite pledging a clean start, the people of Plymouth Moor View probably didn’t expect to see Johnny Mercer half-naked while soaping himself up in an advertisement for shower gel.
The unconventional Conservative MP funded his campaign by working on building sites, but it has also emerged that he was earning a little extra cash by promoting a “hydrating and moisturising” product for Dove Men+Care while a parliamentary candidate.
In the 15-second advert, currently airing in the US, Mercer is seen lathering himself in the shower, showing off his muscles and then playing outdoors with his six-year-old daughter, Amalie.
The family applied to take part in the advert after Dove Men+Care announced it was looking for ex-military families for a photoshoot. According to the Plymouth Herald, Mercer said: “The [the marketing agency for Dove] phoned us up because they wanted people who weren’t models or signed up to an agency. When they asked me, I thought: ‘Why not, it will be a laugh.’
“It was really fun ... They sent me and the girls to London for three days. Unfortunately, I think it might be the first in a series of adverts but we’ll have to wait and see.” He added optimistically: “Hopefully it will be forgotten about quickly.”
Mercer has not declared any earnings from the venture on the register of MPs’ interests but his office said there was no need to declare the income. They added it was a private matter given that it was filmed more than a year ago, in February 2014.
The father of two built up an image during his general election campaign as someone who was fiercely independent minded, turning down money from the party and raising all funding himself.
His wife, Felicity, revealed that he had prepared for the shower gel role by shaving his chest. “It was amazing the amount of crew and directors and wardrobe staff that were needed for just a few days but everyone was so lovely,” she told her local newspaper.
“He had to spend hours in the shower but he was dressed from the waist down, which obviously you can’t see... They really enjoyed it. I don’t think Amalie really understood what she was doing until she saw the finished product recently. To be honest, once the election campaign kicked off we didn’t think much about the advert but then we received a notification telling us it was on in the States.”
The footage appears to have been available online since before the election on the YouTube channel of US Dove Men+Care but only surfaced in the MP’s local newspaper this week.
During the election, Mercer said he would defy the whip when it was against Plymouth’s interests and call constituency-wide ballots on issues of local importance. He has also pledged to turn down any pay rise for MPs and give it to a local community fund.
One Tory MP who saw the video said it was a “rather unusual” move for a politician. Another Conservative colleague expressed dismay that the House of Commons appeared to have acquired “another Nadine Dorries type” – a reference to the Tory MP for Mid Bedfordshire’s decision to take part in I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!
But Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, was more complimentary, tweeting: “What a great story ... I’d have done it totally naked!”
It is not unknown for politicians to endorse products. Former MP and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone promoted red Leicester cheese for the National Dairy Council in the late 1980s.
The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, appeared in an advertisement for Paddy Power backing Team Europe in the Ryder Cup, declaring: “I’m Nigel Farage and I love Europe.” The anti-EU politician was not paid for the advert but said he did it for fun.
Neither is Mercer the only new MP to have been filmed while bathing. Stephen Kinnock, the newly elected MP for Aberavon and son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, once played the lead role in a Russian film in which he appears half-naked in a bubble bath.
Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, now a defence minister, appeared in a swimsuit when she participated in the reality TV diving competition Splash!.
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