MP split his career between the army, press and politics – from which he has now resigned
Before entering parliament in 2001, Patrick Mercer OBE, who has resigned over allegations he broke rules on lobbying, spent 25 years as an army officer with the Sherwood Foresters, following in the footsteps of his father, who had served in the same regiment during the second world war.
During this time, Mercer served in a number of countries, including Northern Ireland, where he completed nine tours. As well as serving in Uganda, he commanded his battalion in both Bosnia and Canada.
He was commended for gallantry in 1990, made an MBE in 1992, and in 1997 he received an OBE in recognition of his service in Bosnia.
Educated at Oxford University, he left his post as colonel with the army in 1999 – at the time the youngest colonel since the second world war – and soon after joined BBC Radio 4’s Today programme as their defence reporter.
Within two years he was selected as the Conservative candidate for Newark and subsequently left the BBC, and then had a spell as a freelance history and travel writer for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
His parliamentary career took off in 2001, when he overturned a Labour majority of 3,000. In 2003, he was appointed to the frontbench by the then Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith and became the party’s spokesman on homeland security. He continued to speak for the Tories on issues of national security even after Duncan Smith was succeeded by Michael Howard, and later David Cameron.
By 2007, after he had been repeatedly overlooked for promotion, his relationship with Cameron soured when on 8 March he was demoted to the backbenches for making remarks perceived as racist.
In an interview with the Times Online, he had said he had come “across a lot of ethnic minority soldiers who were idle and useless, but who used racism as cover for their misdemeanours”.
In November 2011, in a sting by the Sunday People, an alleged recording of Mercer describing Cameron as an “arse” made the headlines. According to the transcription of the recording, Mercer called the prime minister “despicable” and described him as “the worst politician in British history since William Gladstone”.
However, Mercer later denied making the comments.
Mercer was a pupil at the King’s School in Chester before studying modern history at Oxford University and attending the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
He is married with one son and lives in Nottinghamshire.