Patrick Mercer

Patrick John Mercer OBE (born 26 June 1956) is a British author and former politician.[1] He was Conservative shadow homeland security spokesman before being forced to resign by David Cameron in 2007 for making "unacceptable" racist remarks in an interview with The Times. He was elected as a Conservative in the 2001 general election, until resigning the party's parliamentary whip in May 2013 following questions surrounding paid advocacy, and was an Independent MP representing the constituency of Newark in Parliament until his resignation at the end of April 2014 after the Standards Committee suspended him for six months for "sustained and pervasive breach of the house's rules".[2]

Patrick Mercer

Member of Parliament
for Newark
In office
7 June 2001  30 April 2014
Preceded byFiona Jones
Succeeded byRobert Jenrick
Majority16,152 (31.5%)
Personal details
Patrick John Mercer

(1956-06-26) 26 June 1956 (age 64)
Stockport, Cheshire, England
Political partyIndependent
Other political
Conservative (until 2013)
Spouse(s)Cait Mercer
Alma materExeter College, Oxford
Cranfield University
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1975–1999
UnitWorcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment

He is a frequent commentator on defence and security issues, having served as an infantry officer in the British Army and held the position of Shadow Minister for Homeland Security. He is a former journalist for the BBC and has to date written four military novels. He is a patron of the Victoria Cross Trust.[3]

Early life and education

Born in Stockport in Cheshire in 1956, Mercer is the son of Eric Mercer, who became Bishop of Exeter. His mother was born in Lincolnshire and his father was trained for the priesthood at Kelham Theological College near Newark.[4]

Mercer was educated at The King's School, Chester,[5] and Exeter College, Oxford, where he read History. He was later commissioned after training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[6] Whilst there, he was one of a number of cadets interviewed for an edition of the BBC's Panorama programme.[7]

Early career

British Army

Mercer followed his father, who saw wartime service in the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment), into the British Army. He was commissioned into the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment on 8 March 1975 as a second lieutenant.[8] On 8 March 1977, he was promoted to lieutenant.[9] He was promoted to captain on 8 September 1981,[10] and to major on 30 September 1988.[11] On 30 June 1994, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel,[12] then to colonel on 30 June 1998.[13] He retired from the military on 1 September 1999.[14]

During his time in the Army, Mercer completed nine tours in Northern Ireland and latterly commanded his battalion in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada and Tidworth. Mercer served at both the Staff College, Camberley and the Army's University at Cranfield.

Mercer was Mentioned in Despatches in 1983 for "gallant and distinguished service in Northern Ireland during the period 1 November 1982 to 31 January 1983".[15] He earned a gallantry commendation in 1990. He was made an MBE on 12 October 1993 "in recognition of distinguished service in Northern Ireland".[16] He was made an OBE on 13 May 1997 "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the former Yugoslavia during the period 21 June to 20 December 1996".[17] He left the Army in 1999 as a colonel, having been head of communications and strategy at the Army Training and Recruiting Agency.[citation needed]

Political career

Parliament from 2001

Mercer was first elected to Parliament as the member for Newark at the 2001 general election, defeating the Labour incumbent, Fiona Jones, overturning a majority of 3,000 and creating a majority of just over 4,000. In the Commons, he initially served as a back-bencher on the Defence Select Committee before becoming Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence. Mercer backed Iain Duncan Smith over Kenneth Clarke in the 2001 Conservative leadership election. Subsequently he was appointed to a newly created post of Shadow Minister for Homeland Security in June 2003 after Duncan Smith became Conservative leader,

In 2004 he introduced a Private Member's Bill in response to the publicity surrounding the case of Tony Martin that proposed to give householders greater powers when protecting their property from burglary.[18]

Mercer increased his majority in Newark to 6,464 at the 2005 general election.[19]

Parliament from 2005

During the subsequent Conservative leadership contest, he publicly backed David Davis over David Cameron, Kenneth Clarke and Liam Fox.[20]

Since 2005, he has repeatedly warned against the imposition of control orders as being 'counter productive'. Citing his experience of internment in Northern Ireland, as a serving soldier, he highlighted the danger of alienating populations needed for intelligence gathering.[21]

Mercer was forced to resign as Shadow Minister for Homeland Security in March 2007 by David Cameron after talking about "idle and useless" ethnic minority soldiers who used racism as a "cover",[22][23] although initially the Conservative Party stated the comments were a "private matter".[24] Mercer apologised and said, "I had the privilege to command soldiers from across the east Midlands of whom many came from racial minorities. It was a matter of great pride to me that racial minorities prospered inside the unit. What I have said is clearly misjudged and I can only apologise if I have embarrassed in any way those fine men whom I commanded. I have no hesitation in resigning my front-bench appointment."[25]

In December 2008 he was appointed as Chairman of the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Counter-Terrorism, to further his work as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

In March 2009 Mercer volunteered for three days at the charity, Save the Family, learning and helping displaced families as part of a programme devised by Iain Duncan Smith.[26]

Parliament from 2010

At the 2010 general election, Mercer more than doubled his majority to 16,152 to make Newark one of the safest Conservative seats in the country. In August 2010, Mercer warned that dissident Irish terror groups may be planning to attack the party conferences including the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham based on intelligence from serving army officers.[27]

In May 2011, he was appointed with Lord Ashcroft to review the future of the military bases in Cyprus.[28]

In August 2011, Mercer with his knowledge of Northern Ireland, led the calls for considering the use of water cannon and other robust police tactics to deal with the rioters during the 2011 England riots.[29] The next day David Cameron approved the use of water cannon after chairing a session of the Cabinet Office Briefing Room, Cobra.[30]

In October 2011, Mercer supported a failed bid by the Everyday Champions Church to open a free school in his constituency.[31] The bid was rejected because of concerns over the church's explicitly creationist stance.[32]

In November 2011, the press reported that Mercer had been taped making disparaging remarks about David Cameron, calling him "despicable" and describing him as an "arse" and "the worst politician in British history since William Gladstone". The same articles claimed he had predicted that Cameron would be ousted by Conservative MPs in early 2012. Mercer later denied making the comments.[33][34]

Controversy and resignation

In 2007 he was forced to quit his position as shadow homeland security spokesperson following an interview with The Times where he claimed that racist abuse was an acceptable part of a soldier's life, and had admitted that many black soldiers in his regiment had been referred to as "nigger".[35]

Mercer resigned the Conservative Party whip on 31 May 2013 after an investigation by the Daily Telegraph and BBC's Panorama caught him on camera accepting payment for lobbying.[36] On 29 April 2014, Mercer announced he would resign his seat following his suspension from the Commons for six months.[37] He was appointed to the Chiltern Hundreds the next day, making the resignation effective.[citation needed] A by-election for the vacant Newark seat was held on 5 June 2014.[38]

The subsequent Standards Committee report on Mercer stated that MPs were "not aware of a case relating to a sitting MP which has involved such a sustained and pervasive breach of the house's rules on registration, declaration and paid advocacy."[39] It stated that Mercer "had deliberately evaded the rules", including engaging in "paid advocacy" and failing to make "any serious attempt to identify his ultimate clients". He had also failed to register monies received properly; to deposit the contract he signed to provide services; and to declare a relevant interest when tabling parliamentary questions, tabling an early-day motion, when making approaches to other MPs, and at a meeting of a prospective All-Party Parliamentary Group. Mercer was also criticised for "repeatedly denigrating fellow Members both individually and collectively".[40]

The recommended period of suspension from the House of Commons is the second longest suspension since 1947. (Denis MacShane, later convicted of a criminal offence, was suspended for twelve months in 2012, and also resigned immediately as an MP.) One member voted to expel Mercer as an MP, and another wanted him suspended for eight months.[40]

In 2013, talking to an undercover reporter, Mercer also described a meeting with a young Israeli who said she was a soldier.[41] Mercer told the reporter he thought "You don't look like a soldier to me. You look like a bloody Jew".[41]


  • Mercer, Patrick (1998). Inkerman, 1854: The Soldier's Battle. Osprey. ISBN 978-1-85532-618-7.
  • Mercer, Patrick (1998). Give Them A Volley And Charge!: Battle of Inkerman. Spellmount Publishers Ltd. ISBN 978-1-86227-025-1.
  • Mercer, Patrick (2009). To Do And Die. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-730278-9.
  • Mercer, Patrick (2010). Dust and Steel. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-730272-7.
  • Mercer, Patrick (2011). Red Runs the Helmand. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-730275-8.


  1. List of former living MPs
  2. Newell, Claire (31 May 2013). "Patrick Mercer MP resigns over lobbying scandal". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  3. "Victoria Cross Trust". Victoria Cross Trust. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  4. "The Times Profile of Patrick Mercer 2007". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  5. "The Conservative Party | People | Members of Parliament | Patrick Mercer OBE MP". 11 September 2001. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  6. "Conservative Party Profile: Patrick Mercer". 11 September 2001. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  7. Panorama: Sandhurst, BBC, transmitted 15 September 1975
  8. "No. 46551". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 April 1975. p. 5161.
  9. "No. 47166". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 March 1977. p. 3221.
  10. "No. 48734". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 September 1981. p. 11685.
  11. "No. 51488". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 October 1988. p. 11089.
  12. "No. 53724". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 July 1994. p. 9606.
  13. "No. 55181". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 June 1998. p. 7122.
  14. "No. 55609". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 September 1999. p. 9833.
  15. "No. 49393". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 June 1983. p. 8198.
  16. "No. 53453". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 October 1993. p. 16387.
  17. "No. 54763". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 May 1997. p. 5627.
  18. Kite, Melissa (26 December 2004). "Private Members Householders Protection Bill 2004". London: Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  19. "Newark: Constituency | Politics". The Guardian. London. 22 March 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  20. "Who backs who in Conservative leadership election 2005". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  21. "BBC Newsnight, Control Orders 2 November 2010". BBC News. 2 November 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  22. Watt, Holly; Newell, Claire (31 May 2013). "Cash for questions: Patrick Mercer no stranger to controversy". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  23. "Top Tory axed over Army race row". BBC News. 8 March 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  24. "Patrick Mercer resigns and apologises". 8 March 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  25. Peck, Sally (8 March 2007). "Tories sack MP who attacked 'idle' black troops". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
  26. "Patrick Mercer MP to work with homeless families at Save the Family, Flintshire 17-19 March 2009". The Centre for Social Justice. 12 March 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  27. "Republican dissidents 'to target Tory conference'". The Daily Telegraph. London. 22 August 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  28. "Cyprus military bases' review 2011". BBC News. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  29. Stephen Bates (9 August 2011). "Patrick Mercer calls for water cannon 9 August 2011". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  30. Porter, Andrew (10 August 2011). "Cameron approves water cannon 10 August 2011". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  31. "Creationist church remains resolute in pursuit of free school 21 October 2011". 21 October 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  32. "Evangelicals' free school would include creationism on science curriculum 12 September 2011". Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  33. Patrick Hennessy (13 November 2011). "Tory MP in row over 'taped attack' on David Cameron". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  34. Press Association" (13 November 2011). "Tory MP 'secretly taped claiming Cameron will be ousted in spring'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  35. "Top Tory axed over Army race row". BBC News. 8 March 2007.
  36. "Mercer aftermath: Will PM introduce new lobbying laws?". BBC News. 2 June 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  37. "Former Tory MP Mercer resigns after Commons suspension". BBC News. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  38. "Voters to go to polls in Newark by-election". BBC News. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  39. "Patrick Mercer made one of worst ever breaches of rules, watchdog finds". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  40. "Committee on Standards report on Patrick Mercer" (PDF). House of Commons. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  41. Holly Watt and Claire Newell (31 May 2013). "Cash for questions: Patrick Mercer no stranger to controversy". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 July 2013.