A slight case of Mercer: the fall of a veterans’ minister

Johnny Mercer
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Johnny Mercer, the former Royal Artillery captain turned veterans minister, is out of a job. And the snarly ex-soldier isn’t very happy about it. Politics, he says, is a ‘cesspit of distrust’.

As a keen Mercer observer, I’ve followed his career with interest. When he gave his impassioned (though typically rambling) maiden speech to parliament on veterans care, I was one of many ex-military people who even bought into him a little bit. Finally, a lot of vets thought at the time, someone might do something about the suicides, the prison numbers, the homeless veterans and so on.

Not so. If anything, Mercer will be remembered as a man out of his depth. Also as a driving force behind a bill to make soldiers effectively immune from prosecution for wrongdoing during wartime: the so-called Overseas Operations Bill, better described as the War Crimes Immunity Bill.

Read on...

And that toxic legislation may still come to haunt Britain, despite reports that its worst sections have been toned down.

Support for Mercer has plunged even on military online forums in recent years. And this is the very place he’d enjoyed popularity as a self-appointed champion of the military community at the start of his political career. He has since become notorious as a serial blocker of veterans who even mildly challenge him on social media.

In the end, he became a figure of absurdity, known as much for his strange public antics as for the values he constantly referred to.

A slight case of Mercer

Among his greatest hits was squaring up to ‘unwashed’ protesters, at the party conference in Manchester, who asked him if he was a Tory:

I was getting a little annoyed. ‘Yes I am a f***ing Tory mate, is that ok with you?’ He started pointing me out to his mates, who all looked like they had spent a considerable period away from any sort of washing facilities. In fact, some of my lads looked better in Afghanistan after an 18 day patrol. And smelled nicer.

On another occasion he announced, somewhat bizarrely for a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, that the British Army was in the business of helping the oppressed:

There have been several write-ups of Mercer’s time as a minister. The best so far is by journalist Iain Overton (also blocked by the former minister). It recalls Mercer being confronted by a parliamentary committee about the Overseas Operations Bill on the idea that claims were “vexatious,”. And this is a term he used relentlessly while apparently not really understanding what it meant:

When asked by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights “what he meant by vexatious prosecutions brought by the [Ministry of Defence] against armed forces personnel”, its report cited that Mercer “seemed not to understand the question”.

Mercer most foul

Mercer remains an MP, but also a case study. As a veteran of the same war, I’ve come to think of him as a kind of personification of the failed officer class which oversaw the disasters in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beyond that, like many veterans on the political right, he has continued to see the world through the black-and-white lens of the military. A lens which, on this evidence, is completely unsuited to the complexity of the real world and to the amoral, dog-eat-dog nature of Tory politics.

In the end, though, despite his efforts to frame himself as a victim of internal backstabbing, his political demise was self-inflicted. A case, if you like, of Mercer most foul.

Featured image via YouTube/Johnny Mercer


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  • Show Comments
    1. A slight case of Mercer: the fall of a veterans’ minister.
      Another arrogant Minister goes for Tory Govt that leave a mess behind him
      For other parties members to sort out Mr Johnny Mercer WHY?
      I would like to ask Mr Johnny Mercer X minister what help are you giving the armed forces personal you help put on our street of U.K. plus vote to cut their jobs and turn their barracks homes into a prison camp now for immigrant’s people just to save for Tory Govt cash only while a minister for Tory party??
      FIRST point what gives this YOUNG person’s young pup (Tory Minister)
      The right to take help from old soldiers & new alike that need help from Govt
      The new bill under debate now in H.O. Commons now the so-called
      Overseas Operations Bill, better described as the War Crimes Immunity Bill.
      This bill is linked to many rights of X forces personal losing right to sue Govt
      and get Govt funding to aid in their cases against Govt failing to them.
      My older member of my family stud up for this county and when to war died at the Hands of the British enemy’s long before this Young Minister was even born.
      Therefore, I am incredibly happy he has gone from his job as a Minister, but he has left a bill he helped make up still moving between H.O.C + House of lord to be put into law that will screw our armed forces personal now in the arm forces today out of Govt help and other benefits they need after injuries got from protecting other country resident at war time in their area, he voted to send has a Minister Mr Johnny Mercer involved in armed forces personal movements.
      So, veterans + armed forces personal now in our armed forces I would suggest you all have a word with Govt leader of all parties within Govt now and seek full clarity form then & Tory party members this bill will in NO way take their rights away to U.K. Govt help if they are injured over saes serving as any British armed forces personal in all our forces land & sea personal alike

    2. The British Armed Forces are some of the best on the planet
      Having worked with them I know if they wanted to then problems that present time and again when they leave the service would have been sorted a long long time ago
      Unfortunately there is a strain in the Officer class and Government that expects them to just get on with it, man up
      There is also plenty of money sloshing around military charities which goes to waste
      A single Veterans Club run by the many not the few with all funding going to them would ‘sort it’ in 5 years

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