Johnny Mercer (politician)

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Johnny Mercer

Official portrait of Johnny Mercer (cropped).jpg
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans
Assumed office
28 July 2019
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byTobias Ellwood
Member of Parliament
for Plymouth Moor View
Assumed office
7 May 2015
Preceded byAlison Seabeck
Majority12,897 (29.2%)
Personal details
Born (1981-08-17) 17 August 1981 (age 38)
Dartford, Kent
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
Felicity Cornelius
(
m. 2014)
Children2
ResidenceNear Bodmin Moor, Cornwall[1]
Alma materRoyal Military Academy Sandhurst
Websitewww.johnnyforplymouth.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata
Military career
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service2002–2013
RankCaptain
Service number558186
Unit29th Commando Regiment Royal Artillery
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan

John Luther Mercer (born 17 August 1981) is a British politician who has served as the Conservative MP for Plymouth Moor View since the 2015 general election. He is a former British Army officer and an author. In 2019, he was made a minister in the Ministry of Defence in the government led by Boris Johnson.

Early life and career[edit]

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.[2][3] Between 1995 and 2000, he was educated at Eastbourne College, a co-educational independent school in Eastbourne in East Sussex.[4] After completing school, he worked as an intern in the City of London instead of attending university, following an offer from a friend's relative.[4][5][2][better source needed]

Military career[edit]

Mercer was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery after graduating from Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in June 2003 and was promoted to lieutenant in April 2005.[6][7] 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:[8][9] 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.[10]

Two years after becoming an MP, in June 2017, Mercer published We Were Warriors: One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat, a memoir of his upbringing and army service, especially his time in Afghanistan.[11]

Political career[edit]

Member of Parliament[edit]

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.[12] 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.[9] 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.[9]

Mercer has said he was largely responsible for organising his own campaign "on the cheap".[9] To raise funds, he worked on building sites and even appeared in a Dove shower gel advert.[13][14]

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.[15] He has been critical of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team.[16]

Mercer was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 EU referendum, although he says that the result to leave should be respected.[17][18] Mercer was re-elected with an increased majority at the snap 2017 general election, and he has focused on care for veterans.[19][11]

He was criticised in July 2018 after he appeared in Celebrity Hunted rather than attend his work in Parliament. 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, via a Channel 4 statement, arguing that he had used his position to raise money for charity and had brought his parliamentary roles into filming.[20][21]

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".[22] 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,[23] although Crucial Group later denied this.[24]

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.[25]

In the House of Commons he sits on the Defence Committee, the Defence Sub-Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee.[26]

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.[27]

Junior ministerial role[edit]

Mercer was an early backer of Boris Johnson in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

Mercer held his seat in the 2019 general election, increasing his majority to nearly 13,000 votes.[31][32]

Controversies[edit]

Expenses[edit]

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 argued that the errors were minor and his spending had not breached legal limits.[33] The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge him, and the case was dropped.[34][35]

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'.[36] He was criticised 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.[37]

Mercer employs his wife on a part-time basis.[38]

Outside work whilst employed as an MP[edit]

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.[39]

Personal life[edit]

Mercer is married to Felicity and they have two children.[4] The family live in a small village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall.[40] 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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43][44][45]

Honours[edit]

OSM for Afghanistan w bar.svg OSM for Afghanistan w/ Clasp
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Johnny Mercer on life in the army, his childhood demons and the broken Tory "brand"". New Statesman. London. 9 February 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b Mercer. J. 2017. We Were Warriors: One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
  3. ^ Mikhailova, Anna (6 May 2018). "Tory MP Johnny Mercer: My battles with mental illness - and how Army veterans are being exploited and failed". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "Mercer, Johnny, (born 17 Aug. 1981), MP (C) Plymouth Moor View, since 2015 | WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO". doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U283875. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "Life before being an MP". Johnny For Plymouth. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  6. ^ "No. 56952". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 June 2003. p. 6794.
  7. ^ "No. 57653". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 May 2005. p. 7044.
  8. ^ "No. 58817". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 September 2008. p. 13704.
  9. ^ a b c d Prince, Rosa (6 June 2015). "Afghanistan veteran Johnny Mercer's Westminster mission". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 27 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  10. ^ "No. 60890". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 June 2014. p. 11368.
  11. ^ a b "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.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Mason, Rowena (7 July 2015). "Plymouth MP appears half-naked in Dove shower gel advert". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 24 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  14. ^ Daly, Patrick; Blackledge, Sam (14 July 2015). "Plymouth MP is half-naked shower advert model confirms Dove". The Herald. Plymouth. Archived from the original on 16 July 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ "Plymouth MP 'missed key NHS debate to appear on reality TV show'". Plymouth Herald. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Tory MP explains why he missed parliament talk to go on reality TV show". Plymouth Herald. 28 July 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Labour candidate blasts Plymouth Tory MP's £85,000 a year second job". Plymouth Herald. 7 October 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Company linked to MP 'taking legal action' over BBC report". The Evening Express. 24 April 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ "Johnny Mercer". Parliament UK. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  27. ^ Bell, Jonathan (8 May 2019). "Tory MP Mercer strikes over Troubles soldiers' prosecutions". Belfast Telegraph.
  28. ^ "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.
  29. ^ Telford, William (14 July 2019). "Johnny Mercer reveals why he backs Boris and wants Brexit". Plymouth Herald. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Plymouth Moor View parliamentary constituency - Election 2019". Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  32. ^ O'Leary, Miles (13 December 2019). "Tory Johnny Mercer wins Plymouth Moor View with huge majority". plymouthherald. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  33. ^ Blackledge, Sam (10 April 2017). "No action against Plymouth MP after 'admitting expenses error". Plymouth Herald.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ "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.
  35. ^ "MP Johnny Mercer's campaign expenditure investigated". BBC News. 8 July 2015. Archived from the original on 9 October 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  36. ^ "Tory MP Johnny Mercer accused over £3,500 expenses claim for five iMacs". Evening Standard. 16 November 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  37. ^ "Johnny Mercer expenses investigation: Watchdog launches probe into Plymouth MP". Plymouth Herald. 4 December 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  38. ^ "One in five MPs employs a family member: the full list revealed". The Daily Telegraph. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  39. ^ Syal, Rajeev (27 September 2019). "UK minister 'may have breached' rules over second job". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  40. ^ "Johnny Mercer on life in the army, his childhood demons and the broken Tory "brand"". New Statesman. London. 9 February 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  41. ^ 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.
  42. ^ "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.
  43. ^ Mann, Scott (18 November 2016). "I Am An Adult, And I Am Unable To Swim". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  44. ^ 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.
  45. ^ "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.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alison Seabeck
Member of Parliament
for Plymouth Moor View

2015–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Tobias Ellwood
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence People and Veterans
2019–present
Incumbent