A desperate Johnny Mercer resorts to dubious tactics against Plymouth Moor View’s likely next MP, Fred Thomas

No doubt there are many Conservative MPs who were complacently confident about the safety of their seats only a few months ago. And no doubt many of those are now realising that that complacency was misplaced. The growing Conservative fury and desperation manifests itself in many ways, from the tetchy belligerence of Sunak, to the frenzied scaremongering about a Labour ‘super majority’ (when a majority is a majority is a majority, as they very well know) and the pathetic attempts to subvert grassroots’ tactical voting strategies by advocating for parties that will split the progressive vote. But some individuals just lose their sh*t, as the vernacular would have it, and when they do, they show who they truly are.

One such example is Johnny Mercer, Conservative candidate for Plymouth Moor View and former captain in the Royal Artillery, (Commando Regiment and Special Services. Johnny was minister for veterans under Rishi Sunak. He was, originally, a Johnson backer and serving under hm as minister for military people and veterans before being sacked via text after disagreements over the proposed Overseas Operations Bill, whereupon he took rather a dim view of Johnson’s regime. His own political career has been littered with controversy over expenses, a problematic second job, paying his wife £45,000 a year for a part-time role, and appearing (albeit for charity) on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted. He’s also known for being outspoken and for showing undisguised anger and frustration with critics and colleagues, a characteristic which can be endearing in the right context, but damaging when it is the consequence of his personal agenda. In addition, he has something of a propensity for getting his kit off and has claimed to have never met a straight woman who did not fancy him…Hmm.

Right now, Johnny Mercer seems incensed that a veteran, like himself, should dare to be threatening his position as MP for Plymouth Moor View. In recent hustings, it appeared that a question was set up to allow Mercer to accuse former Royal Marines Captain, Fred Thomas, of lying about his military career. Mercer commented on Twitter:

“I cannot believe I am standing against a real life Walter Mitty in Plymouth. If there is one place you don’t want to lie about your military service, it is this city.”

The origin of the slur appears to be a Guardian article in which the journalist referred to Fred Thomas as having served ‘in combat’. Obviously, any serviceman’s exposure to conflict depends on whether or not there is UK involvement in theatres of war and conflict around the world, and combat has a very specific meaning in that context.

Fred Thomas has not himself claimed to have served ‘in combat missions’. He has made it clear that his one operational tour was something about which he is unable to speak and which has yet to go down for recognition, because it was an ongoing and highly-sensitive matter.

The Labour Party subsequently clarified that the Guardian article was incorrect. Mercer interpreted that clarification as ‘changing his tune’:

“The Labour Candidate in Plymouth has now changed his tune to say the article which he promoted for ten months is ‘misreporting’ his service. Veterans at the hustings smelt a rat; they were right. Bored of it. “

In response, Alastair Campbell commented:

“He has not ‘changed his tune.’ He never sang the tune. A journalist wrote a profile which included a phrase you have used to misrepresent the service of a veteran. I get that political campaigns are tough. I don’t mind tough campaigning. But this is plain wrong when you know that he cannot talk about the operations he was involved in. Do yourself a favour and drop it. Not sure veterans will be impressed this is how you treat one of them just because he is your political opponent.”

Rory Stewart (also a veteran) weighed in:

“I passionately agree with @campbellclaret here. Many people in public service cannot talk about the details of their service and operations for very good reasons. And shouldn’t be asked to in election campaigns. This is unpleasantly reminiscent of the Swift boat attacks on Kerry. Let’s not make this part of UK campaigns.”

This didn’t faze Mercer, who replied to Stewart:

“You would, Rory. No-one is asking him to discuss operations. Genuine combat veterans just don’t want him to lie about his service. It’s pretty straightforward. Integrity. Not about service. Integrity. That is all.”

Mercer seemingly went on to rope in former Defence minister, Ben Wallace, to back up his attack. Interestingly, reports of this intervention have vanished from the Sky and BBC news sites on which they appeared.

The last 24h hours have been quiet. There are rumours of lawsuits for defamation. We invite you to make what you will of Mercer’s behaviour.

Meanwhile, to return to the veteran voter ID story, Mercer has form when it comes to slagging off fellow veterans. This was tweeted by veteran Adam Driver on May 2, the day of the local council elections:

Mercer was quick to respond:

And as we all now know, it is NOT on the list for July 4.

But this man IS on the list of candidates and is the tactical voting choice.

Meme by Sadie Parker