Johnny Mercer on course to lose eyebrows over ID bet, say Labour

Conservative MP Bob Stewart jokingly swears at Johnny Mercer

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey has warned that the Government’s minister for veterans, Johnny Mercer, is on course to lose a bet and have to shave his eyebrows after promising the Government would provide every veteran with an ID card by the end of this year.

At the start of March, the minister and former Army officer told a ‘Military Banter’ Twitter account that he would shave his eyebrows if the promise wasn’t met by the end of 2023.

However new data shows the Department for Veterans Affairs will struggle to hit the high-stakes target.

ONS statistics say there are more than 1.8 million veterans in England and Wales, however new Ministry of Defence statistics show just 61,246 ID cards have been handed out since 2018.

This means just 3% of veterans have been given an ID card in five years.

In order to keep his promise, and his eyebrows, Minister Johnny Mercer will need to oversee the distribution of 1.7 million ID cards in the next nine months.

At the current rate of delivery, just 13,500 ID cards will be delivered by the end of the year.

Replying to a video reiterating that Veteran ID cards are coming this year, @MilitaryBanter asked, “Robogen?” – a military term meaning that someone is telling the truth and if not the teller will shave the front of his head to resemble the movie character RoboCop.

Mr Mercer replied to the account promising, “eyebrows”, another military term meaning someone pledges to have them shaved off if they don’t follow through on what they’ve said, or it turns out to be a lie.

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey says Mr Mercer “has demonstrated once again he’s not a details man and can’t do the hard work to keep his grand promises to our veterans.”

Mr Healey continued, “This is more than just banter; it’s about honouring our commitment to those who serve by ensuring quick access to important services like healthcare.

“But after half a decade the Conservatives have delivered a fraction of the cards needed.

“Our veterans don’t need empty promises, they need action.

“Mr Mercer may well lose his eyebrows, but he should also lose his job at the next election.”

In November, Labour calculated it will take 125 years for the cards to be rolled out to all 1.8 million veterans at the current rate.

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The Cabinet Office denied the department nor Mr Mercer had promised to roll out an ID card for every single veteran by a certain deadline, however, saying the promised deadline of the end of this year related to advancing the rollout of the cards to all former servicemen.

Veteran ID cards are designed to provide speedy access to health, housing and charity for those who served in the British military.

Mr Mercer’s wife, who is active on Twitter and often jokes about her husband, later tweeted, “I go on one 8-hour lifeguard shift and come back to @JohnnyMercerUK saying ‘eyebrows’ to veterans ID cards for this year Best get the printer going tomorrow @MilitaryBanter isn’t going to forget this.”

The veteran ID plan has been welcomed by charities who say the cards are important for former soldiers who have lost their way after leaving the military.

One group said the ID cards will give them back “their sense of identity; their sense of belonging”.

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