Tory MP Johnny Mercer performed one of his occasional self-publicising stunts last week (October 2018) with a very friendly undemanding so-called interview with Sebastian Whale for the Politics Home website. Look at me, I’m Johnny Mercer was less an interview, more a cringeworthy marketing piece on Mercer by Whale wherein the former was presented (entirely falsely) as a rebel or outsider within the Tory party.
Mercer pretended to be disillusioned with the state of his own party and with the qualities of the current prime minister.
“The party will never really change until you have somebody who is leading the party who has won a seat and knows what it’s like to go out every weekend and advocate for what you’ve just voted for that week. We’ve lost this ability to fight, to scrap for what we believe in. Ultimately our core business as politicians is winning elections. We’ve lost focus on that for some very good, very capable but ultimately technocrats and managers. That’s not what Britain’s about.”
No Tory MP has ever “advocated what they have just voted for that week” because the Tories know they vote in parliament in favour of a small elite of wealthy financial gangsters. Mercer is aware of that. When Tories campaign they lie relentlessly to the voters about their intent, about the reasons for how they voted and about the intent of other parties. They never present any valid, logical explanation of decisions taken in parliament.
Mercer decided to position himself as separate from the true essence of being a Tory MP, both in his acts and in his politics. “Politicians like this Prime Minister have had a fundamentally different journey to this place [parliament] and then undertake what I believe to be a fundamentally different job to an MP like me.” According to Whale, during the 2015 general election campaign “Mercer targeted ‘centre, centre-right’ voters whose political inclinations, like his own, were malleable. He knocked on as many doors as he possibly could, and listened.”
But, like his fellow con artists Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Dominic Grieve, Mercer has always been very obedient in parliamentary votes. The excellent They Work For You website showed that “Johnny Mercer has never rebelled against the Tory party in the current parliament.”
Mercer’s attitude to military veterans
Three years ago, when he was first elected to parliament, Mercer claimed that his reason for wanting to become an MP was to help military veterans. In Telegraph interview Rosa Prince described Mercer’s first speech in parliament in which he “decried the shameful lack of care for returning veterans, which, he said, was directly responsible for suicide claiming more lives than those lost in combat.” In her interview with him Mercer claimed
“They [politicians] respected Remembrance and talked a reasonable game about the Armed Forces and then there was a complete vacuum of interest in looking after their mental health when they returned. So I thought how am I going to change veterans’ care, how am I going to change mental health? Right, I’ll try and become an MP. It was a mad idea.”
However, in the same interview he said
“I do genuinely have a problem with a massive welfare state that saps the ambition and drive of a younger generation. That’s the issue for me. I realised I was a Conservative, I believed in aspiration, I believed in giving it a go.”
Would the two stances quoted above lead to a contradiction?
The They Work For You website revealed that Mercer has “almost always” voted in favour of vicious cuts to benefits including cuts that affect people with disabilities.
Mercer’s full voting record on welfare is here: Mercer parliamentary votes on welfare. The record showed his consistent support for relentless reductions and removal of benefits including support for benefit freezes, the bedroom tax and Universal Credit.
All the Tory attacks on welfare have been life-changing (and often life-ending) for people with disabilities. There have been many ex-servicemen and -women who returned from combat with physical disabilities or encountered mental disabilities as a result of combat. The vicious reductions and removal of benefits for people with disabilities has caused a large rise in the number of homeless veterans and have caused many unnecessary deaths for ex-service personnel. Via his voting choices, Mercer has helped to cause devastating changes to the lives of people with disabilities including former soldiers. Like his Tory compatriots, he has voted to end the lives of military veterans by removing vital financial support.
Whale’s “interview” with Mercer started with an account of an incident in Afghanistan where Mercer commanded the rescue of an injured soldier while under fire from Afghanis. The purpose of the inclusion of the account of the rescue was to present Mercer as strong-willed and also as someone who cares for others even when his own safety in is doubt. This depiction of Mercer’s personality contrasted starkly with his behaviour in parliamentary votes where Mercer has fallen into line without protest and has jeopardised the lives of disabled military veterans.
Johnny Mercer is blandly typical of the younger members of the Tory parliamentary party. He has voted obediently with no care for the consequences of his support for Tory policies. Occasionally, aided by a PR team, he has popped up with a spot of hollow self-promotion to put a marker down for any future opportunities within or without politics. His extra-curricula activities have included “writing” a book and appearing in “celebrity” reality TV shows.
In the Telegraph interview Mercer said that “I’ve never been money-focused.” Earlier this month (October) the Plymouth Herald newspaper revealed that he has a £85k per annum “job” with Crucial Academy Ltd, a cyber security firm. This “job” is four hours “work” per week. The company provides training for ex-service personnel. So, Mercer’s help for military veterans is for him to be paid approximately £425 an hour providing “advice.”
Mercer cannot just be dismissed as a lucky recipient of underserved parliamentary salary. He has contributed actively and willingly to destitution, homelessness and deaths caused by welfare reductions and removals that he has supported persistently. Many ex-service personnel have had their lives destroyed or ended by Mercer’s votes in parliament.
Related blog: Tory Bratboys