Johnny Mercer (politician)
John Luther Mercer (born 17 August 1981) is a British Conservative politician and former British Army officer. He has served as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Moor View since 2015. Mercer served as Minister for Defence People and Veterans from 28 July 2019 until 20 April 2021, when, after notifying the Chief Whip that he intended resigning, he was dismissed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans|
28 July 2019 – 20 April 2021
|Prime Minister||Boris Johnson|
|Preceded by||Tobias Ellwood|
|Succeeded by||Leo Docherty|
|Member of Parliament|
for Plymouth Moor View
|Assumed office |
7 May 2015
|Preceded by||Alison Seabeck|
|Born||17 August 1981|
|Residence||Near Bodmin Moor, Cornwall|
|Alma mater||Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst|
|Years of service||2002–2013|
|Unit||29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery|
|Battles/wars||War in Afghanistan|
Early life and career
John Mercer was born in Dartford on 17 August 1981. The son of a banker and a nurse, he grew up in a strict Baptist family with seven siblings. Between 1995 and 2000, he was educated at Eastbourne College, a co-educational independent school in Eastbourne in East Sussex. After completing school, he worked as an intern in the City of London from 2000–02 instead of attending university.
Mercer was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery after graduating from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in June 2003 and was promoted to lieutenant in April 2005. Mercer passed the All Arms Commando Course and served mostly with 29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery. He did three tours in Afghanistan: as a liaison and training officer with Afghan forces; attached to a Special Forces unit; and as a co-ordinator of artillery and air strikes in support of ground operations. Mercer retired from military service in December 2013 with the rank of captain.
Member of Parliament
Mercer has said publicly that he had not been politically active in his younger years and the first time he voted was for himself when he first ran for office. He said that he entered politics with a view to improving the care of veterans and felt that he was a Conservative because he regarded a "massive welfare state that saps the ambition and drive of a younger generation" as a problem. After contacting ex-military Conservative MP Bob Stewart, he was selected as the Conservative Party candidate for Plymouth Moor View two months after leaving the army in February 2014.
He was first elected to the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Moor View at the 2015 general election; defeating the incumbent Labour MP, Alison Seabeck. Mercer delivered his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 1 June 2015, describing his "main missions" in Parliament to be improving provision for mental health and support for war veterans. He has been critical of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team.
Mercer was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 EU referendum. He later said that the result to leave should be respected. Mercer was re-elected with an increased majority at the snap 2017 general election, and he has focused on care for veterans.
In July 2018 after he appeared in Celebrity Hunted. This was a Channel 4 television programme where participants go on the run and images are released of them so people can try to track them down. While taking part in the programme he missed the meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee, of which he was a member, shortly before Parliament broke up for the summer recess. Mercer defended his decision, stating that he had used his position to raise money for charity and had brought his parliamentary roles into filming.
In October 2018, Mercer took on a second job working twenty hours a month as a consultant to Crucial Academy for a salary of £85,000 (equivalent to £350 per hour). Local Labour candidate Charlotte Holloway accused him of neglecting his constituency duties to earn a "staggering" amount of money. Mercer said the accusation "smacked of political jealousy". In April 2019 the BBC reported that his salary at Crucial Academy was funded by the marketing agent for the failed London Capital and Finance bond scheme, although Crucial Group later denied this.
In an interview with The House magazine in October 2018, Mercer suggested that his values no longer aligned with the current Conservative party leadership and said there would be "absolutely no chance" that he would start as a candidate of the party at this time.
In the House of Commons he sat on the Defence Committee, the Defence Sub-Committee (2015–19) and the Health and Social Care Committee (2017–19).
On 8 May 2019, Mercer announced that he would no longer support the government's legislative agenda until it ended the system for prosecuting historical allegations against British soldiers, in particular in relation to actions during the British Army's presence in Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the latter third of the twentieth century.
Mercer has been challenged over his expenses several times. His campaign to get elected as an MP in 2015 was subsequently the subject of a police investigation following allegations that it breached rules on campaign spending. Mercer admitted to police that his account of expenses had been incorrect, but stated that the errors were minor and his spending had not breached legal limits. The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge him, and the case was dropped.
In November 2015, he was criticised by the TaxPayers' Alliance after it was revealed he had purchased five Apple iMac computers on his Commons expenses, rather than 'cheaper equivalents'. Mercer responded that the purchases were appropriate and 'were cheaper than the desktop computers offered to MPs by the House of Commons' official supplier'. He was criticised[by whom?] in May 2016 for claiming £2,500 on expenses for "professional services" on social media management, and in December 2017 the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority opened an investigation to determine whether Mercer had been paid business expenses he should not have been.[needs update]
As of 2015,[needs update] Mercer employed his wife on a part-time basis.
Junior ministerial role
Mercer was an early backer of Boris Johnson in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election. He said that he believed "Boris is the man of the moment" and was capable of securing a better Brexit deal for the United Kingdom. On 28 July 2019, Mercer was appointed as Minister for Defence People and Veterans in Johnson's government. In the role, Mercer's responsibility includes armed forces personnel and veterans' welfare. Mercer was also tasked by the Prime Minister to focus on ending the legal pursuit of former service personnel, especially those who had served during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
On 27 September 2019, Mercer was accused of having broken the ministerial code for not resigning from his role at a training firm whilst in government. He held a second job as a director of Crucial Academy Ltd, which retrains former military personnel. Shadow Cabinet ministers Tom Watson and Nia Griffith wrote a letter to the Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill asking him to investigate whether Mercer had broken the code through his directorship at the company.
Mercer held his seat in the 2019 general election, increasing his majority to nearly 13,000 votes.
On 20 April 2021, Mercer was "sacked by text" after offering to resign at the end of Wednesday 21 April, but refusing to go earlier. In a tweet, Mercer said he was "relieved of [his] responsibilities in Government" because of his disagreements with the scope of the proposed Overseas Operations Bill. This new government law is designed to protect veterans from historical criminal prosecutions. However, Mercer said it was a "red line" for him that British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland are excluded from the Bill. He told Times Radio that he thought the Second Johnson ministry was "the most distrustful, awful environment I've ever worked in".
Mercer is married to Felicity and they have three children. The family live in a small village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall. For his work in Parliament, Mercer stays in a hotel on expenses. When first elected, he slept in East London on his boat several nights a week, stating in The Daily Telegraph at the time that it reduced his expenses costs. After local media reported he had started using hotels instead, he said it was due to the weather conditions and that his expenses claims were still lower than the maximum that could be allowed.
On a summer boat trip in 2016, he saved the life of fellow Conservative MP Scott Mann who fell into the water having previously been "ashamed to admit" he could not swim. In August 2020, Mercer sustained a serious head injury while canoeing and spent three nights in hospital.
|OSM for Afghanistan w/ Clasp|
|Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal|
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- Mercer. J. 2017. We Were Warriors: One Soldier's Story of Brutal Combat. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
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- "No. 60890". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 2014. p. 11368.
- "We Were Warriors: One Soldier's Story of Brutal Combat - review". London Evening Standard. 22 June 2017. Archived from the original on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
- Bennett, Owen (1 September 2015). "Johnny Mercer: We need to 'grow up' over Iraq, my 'gippingly' embarrassing Dove advert and why Tony Blair is my political hero". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 2 October 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
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- Kirkup, James (2 June 2015). "Cynical about politicians? This speech by Johnny Mercer MP should make you think again". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 2 June 2015. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Somper, James (18 September 2016). "British soldiers cleared of Iraqi civilian's death could now face prosecution". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
Mr Mercer, who has just started chairing a parliamentary select committee inquiry into the post-operational support given to armed forces personnel said that he was "deeply ashamed" of the decision and labelled Ihat and the 1,500 cases it is currently investigating as a "fatally flawed process" that should be shut down
- Goodenough, Tom (16 February 2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". The Spectator. London. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
- "Johnny Mercer: Why I have changed my mind over Brexit". Plymouth Herald. 2 April 2017. Archived from the original on 5 April 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
- "Plymouth Moor View result: Conservative Johnny Mercer re-elected". Plymouth Herald. 9 June 2017. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
- "Plymouth MP 'missed key NHS debate to appear on reality TV show'". Plymouth Herald. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
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- "Labour candidate blasts Plymouth Tory MP's £85,000 a year second job". Plymouth Herald. 7 October 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
- Quevatre, Chris (24 April 2019). "MP Johnny Mercer's salary funded by failed bond scheme marketing agent". BBC News. BBC News. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- "Company linked to MP 'taking legal action' over BBC report". The Evening Express. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
- Whale, Sebastian (18 October 2018). "Johnny Mercer has said he would not vote Conservative if he was not already an MP for the party". PoliticsHome. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
- "Johnny Mercer". Parliament UK. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
- Bell, Jonathan (8 May 2019). "Tory MP Mercer strikes over Troubles soldiers' prosecutions". Belfast Telegraph.
- Blackledge, Sam (10 April 2017). "No action against Plymouth MP after 'admitting expenses error". Plymouth Herald.[permanent dead link]
- "Tory election spending: MP admitted to police some claims were wrong". The Guardian. London. 10 April 2017. Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- "MP Johnny Mercer's campaign expenditure investigated". BBC News. 8 July 2015. Archived from the original on 9 October 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
- "Tory MP Johnny Mercer accused over £3,500 expenses claim for five iMacs". Evening Standard. 16 November 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
- "Johnny Mercer expenses investigation: Watchdog launches probe into Plymouth MP". Plymouth Herald. 4 December 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
- "One in five MPs employs a family member: the full list revealed". The Daily Telegraph. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
- "Brilliant. And why I backed him from the start. Can't wait to get back to this". Twitter. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
- Telford, William (14 July 2019). "Johnny Mercer reveals why he backs Boris and wants Brexit". Plymouth Herald. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
- Honeycombe-Foster, Matt (29 July 2019). "Johnny Mercer gets defence minister job as Boris Johnson pledges dedicated veterans' office". Politics Home. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
- Syal, Rajeev (27 September 2019). "UK minister 'may have breached' rules over second job". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- "Plymouth Moor View parliamentary constituency - Election 2019". Retrieved 13 December 2019.
- O'Leary, Miles (13 December 2019). "Tory Johnny Mercer wins Plymouth Moor View with huge majority". Plymouth Herald. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
- "Johnny Mercer: Sacked minister attacks 'distrustful' government". BBC News. 21 April 2021. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
- "Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament". bills.parliament.uk. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
- Johnny Mercer [@JohnnyMercerUK] (20 April 2021). "I'm sorry to have been relieved of my responsibilities in Government tonight" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Johnny Mercer: Tory MP resigns as defence minister". BBC News. 20 April 2021. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
- "Defence minister Johnny Mercer resigns from government". The Guardian. 20 April 2021. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
- "Johnny Mercer: Sacked minister attacks 'distrustful' government". BBC News. 21 April 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
- Riley-Smith, Ben (2 January 2016). "Tory MP sleeps on boat in east London to avoid 'obscene' house prices in capital". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 2 January 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
- "MP ditches plan to save expenses by staying on his yacht then racks up £12,500 in hotel bills". Devon Live. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
- Mann, Scott (18 November 2016). "I Am An Adult, And I Am Unable To Swim". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
- McCann, Kate (18 November 2016). "Tory MP Johnny Mercer rescued colleague who was afraid to admit he couldn't swim from drowning". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
- "Non-swimmer North Cornwall MP Scott Mann rescued after trying to swim to shore on Rame Peninsula". Cornwall Live. Local World. 18 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
- "MP injures head in canoe accident". BBC News. 26 August 2020. Retrieved 7 September 2020.