ir Keir Starmer has labelled a Government minister a “silly sod” who will “soon be history”, after Johnny Mercer compared the party’s new 25-year-old MP to a character from cult Channel 4 comedy The Inbetweeners.
The minister for Veterans’ Affairs said Keir Mather had been “dropped into” the Selby and Ainsty constituency and “spouted identikit Keir Starmer lines”, after earlier stating: “We don’t want Parliament to become like The Inbetweeners.”
The Labour leader hit back at Mr Mercer in Selby on Friday, as he celebrated the by-election victory alongside Mr Mather and deputy leader Angela Rayner.
Strolling along the pitch at Selby Town Football Club and surrounded by media, Sir Keir told the new MP: “There was some silly sod on the radio, on the television last night saying you were only 25.
The comments were picked up by an ITV camera crew and Sir Keir can be heard saying: “But the answer is, you’re 25 and you’ve made history and he’s whatever age he is and he’ll soon be history.”
Mr Mather will become the youngest MP in the Commons – the Baby of the House – after overturning a 20,137 Conservative majority to win the North Yorkshire seat for Labour.
The Inbetweeners, which aired in the late 2000s, follows four friends at school who end up in awkward and embarrassing situations as they try to enter adulthood.
Explaining his comments to Sky News on Friday, Mr Mercer said: “I think this synthetic outrage, identikit Labour politician is the opposite of what people like me came into politics for.
“He’s been at Oxford University more than he’s had a job, right? So if you can really apply that to the empathy required to understand what it’s really like in this country at the moment, in terms of the cost of living and all these experiences of these people he’s trying to represent.
“Personally, I don’t think that is conducive to good electoral representation and I’m more than entitled to have that view.”
Labour peer Baroness Chapman of Darlington, who appeared alongside Mr Mercer on Sky, defended Mr Mather as “very considered” and “intelligent” and said: “You’re entitled to have whatever view you like, but there is such a thing as being gracious in defeat Johnny, and you’re being disrespectful to the voters of Selby who’ve made a decision that you don’t happen to like.
“One of the good things about our Parliament is that we have people entering Parliament for the first time in their 20s but also in their 60s, from all kinds of backgrounds, and I think that’s a strength.”
Mr Mercer, a former British Army officer from 2002 to 2013 and MP for Plymouth Moor View, has previously been involved in several public arguments with well-known individuals including TV presenter Carol Vorderman.
He tweeted later on Friday saying: “I may be a ‘silly sod’ or a ‘twit’ – both of those are valid.
“But I also don’t think voters really want people who’ve spent more time at university than in a job, who get dropped in to a constituency, inserted with a party chip and parrot party lines. Glad to have stoked debate.
“It’s obviously not about young people being in politics. It’s the *type* of person. But people will mistranslate it as they see fit. And that is fine too.”
It is not unusual for politicians to start Commons careers in their mid-20s. British Prime Ministers William Gladstone and Winston Churchill became MPs at the ages of 22 and 25 respectively.
It was also pointed out on social media that Ross Kempsell, former political director of the Conservative Party, was elevated to the House of Lords on Thursday aged 31 after being included in Boris Johnson’s Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours.