Tory MP Patrick Mercer: Glittering army career stalled in Parliament

  • @NigelpMorris

Patrick Mercer arrived in Parliament on the back of a decorated army record including an award for gallantry.

He captured Newark from Labour in 2001, partly aided by a backlash against the town’s previous MP who was briefly suspended – and later cleared – over claims of fiddling her election expenses.

Mr Mercer, who was the Army’s youngest colonel since the Second World War at the time of his return to civilian life, looked set to emulate his military success in his political career. He was appointed to the Tory front bench as the party’s spokesman on national security and held that post until 2007 when he fell out with David Cameron and was sacked.

The flashpoint was an interview in which he claimed the phrase “black bastard” was common parlance in the armed forces, and said he had encountered “a lot of ethnic minority soldiers who were idle and useless, but used racism as cover for their misdemeanours”.

In 2011, he was covertly recorded allegedly describing Mr Cameron as an “arse” and the worst prime minister since William Gladstone. Mr Mercer denied making the comments and protested that the recording had been obtained by “subterfuge”.

Despite his six years on the back benches, he maintained a high profile as a commentator on intelligence and terrorism.

He has built his Nottinghamshire constituency into a Tory redoubt, winning a commanding 16,000 majority at the last election.