Johnny Mercer urged to apologise for accusing Labour rival of lying about military service

Johnny Mercer urged to apologise for accusing Labour rival of lying about military service

Johnny Mercer has been urged to apologise for accusing his Labourgeneral election rival of lying about his military service and withdraw the “deeply disrespectful” remarks.

The veterans minister, who is standing for re-election in Plymouth, Moor View, has been widely condemned for suggesting former Royal Marine Fred Thomas lied about leading men into combat to boost his political career.

Mr Thomas has said he is unable to discuss large parts of his military service and cited a certificate of valediction signed by a Special Forces Support Group commanding officer.

The decorated ex-Royal Marine served for seven years, rising to the rank of Captain. Due to the highly sensitive and recent nature of his role, Thomas remains unable to discuss much of his service.

His Certificate of Valediction notes that Mr Thomas gained “considerable operational experience relative to the time you have served”. It notes Mr Thomas “command on operations overseas” which saw him “lead personnel…in a range of hostile and challenging environments”.

 (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)
(Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

Mr Thomas “embodied the finest traditions of the Service, you can be immensely proud of your career”, it said.

The document is signed by an unnamed Lieutenant Colonel, the Commanding Officer of the Special Forces Support Group.

Speaking at a hustings in Plymouth on Thursday night, Mr Mercer said: “This man has claimed he’s led troops in combat. He never has…if he’s going to lie about that, what else is he going to lie about.

“I respect everyone’s service, particularly in this city. But you do not lie about it…I think it’s disgraceful.”

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said Mr Mercer should immediately withdraw his “deeply disrespectful” remarks.

Mr Healey said: “The Commanding Officer of the Special Forces Support Group wrote of Fred’s integrity and his character. Those words will not have been penned lightly. Mr Mercer should do the right thing and withdraw his deeply disrespectful remarks.”

John Healey said Johnny Mercer’s remarks were ‘deeply disrespectful’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
John Healey said Johnny Mercer’s remarks were ‘deeply disrespectful’ (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Mr Thomas, Labour’s candidate in Plymouth Moor View, said: “I am proud of having served my country for 7 years, including overseas on operations. I remain unable to discuss much of my service, something which Johnny Mercer – as a former Defence minister – is keenly aware of.

“I look forward to using every day until July 4th to take the message of Keir Starmer’s changed Labour Party to the voters of Plymouth Moor View.”

The row comes as Labour has accused the Conservatives of turning to increasingly divisive and personal attacks in the last weeks of the general election campaign.

The Tories are growing increasingly desperate with Labour’s 20-point poll lead refusing to budge and senior party figures repeatedly warning of the prospect of Sir Keir Starmer winning a “supermajority”.

Mr Mercer has served as MP for Plymouth Moor View since 2010 and has attended cabinet as Minister for Veteran Affairs since 2019.

He is set to lose his seat to Labour, with the Reform party predicted to nibble away at the Conservative majority, taking around 11 per cent of the total vote share.