Have I Got News For You’s Ian Hislop took a Tory MP to task for his alleged links to a company that went bust owing millions of pounds to savers.
Hislop demanded Johnny Mercer, the MP for Plymouth Moor View, justify an £85,000 a year second job re-training army veterans at a company reportedly linked to London Capital and Finance, which is now in administration.
Mercer has denied his role re-training veterans has any link to London Capital, which sold a failed bond scheme that lost savers £236m.
It follows allegations the company that funded Mercer’s second job received money from London Capital for marketing the scheme. Some London Capital investors have called on Mercer to resign as an MP.
Yet the spat during Friday’s episode of the BBC One panel show led many viewers to describe it as “the most awkward ever”.
When the issue was mentioned, Mercer said on the programme: “I run a company that trains veterans to go into cyber employment, and four companies away from that is a company that has gone bust.”
When challenged by Hislop over his salary, Mercer explained: “The salary is provided through business in that company, in money that that company generated.”
The MP added that his high pay packet for re-training veterans reflects the value of the skills they learn.
“I must sound like a right bastard, don’t I, doing this whole veterans employment thing,” Mercer said.
Hislop responded: “No it’s not the veterans bit, it’s the £85,000 for a four-hour [a week] job.”
Mercer hit back to allege Hislop receives ”£20,000 for two hours work” on Have I Got News For You.
“But people who have lost money out of this company are very cross with you,” Hislop said.
“It’s about your behaviour and the fact that you didn’t know, and didn’t ask as a non-executive director ‘where does this money come from?’.”
The awkwardness was pierced by Hislop’s fellow panellist, Paul Merton, who joked: “This is one for Judge Rinder isn’t it?”
Another guest, comedian Zoe Lyons, said: “This is like all my Christmas dinners with my family.”
As an MP, Mercer is entitled to a £79,468 a year salary plus expenses to run his office.
Mercer is taking legal action over a recent BBC report which said there were direct links between a company which earned money from London Capital and his second job training army veterans.
Have I Got News For You is available on the BBC iPlayer here.