Row over candidate's military service record

A row has erupted after a political candidate accused his rival of lying about his military record.

Fred Thomas, a former Royal Marine, is standing for Labour in the Plymouth Moor View constituency against former Army officer and veterans' minister, Conservative Johnny Mercer.

Mr Mercer claims Mr Thomas was never “in combat missions” as was reported in the Guardian newspaper in 2023.

A spokesperson from the Labour Party said Mr Thomas had been misreported but added he was unable to discuss large parts of his service due to the nature of the "sensitive operations" he was involved with.

Mr Mercer made the accusations at a hustings in Plymouth on Wednesday.

Following the event, he said serving in combat had "a special meaning and carries special responsibilities".

Labour said Mr Mercer's comments were "deeply disrespectful" and should be withdrawn immediately.

Mr Thomas has never made any claims of serving in combat directly himself.

Mr Thomas cited his certificate of valediction which was signed by an unnamed commanding officer of the Special Forces Support Group.

He told the BBC: "I served on sensitive operations that are really recent so I'm not allowed to talk about them in that kind of detail.

"We shouldn’t be allowing political point-scoring for the sake of earning votes."

The Labour Party shared Mr Thomas's certificate of valediction in which an unnamed lieutenant colonel said: "Your command on operations overseas and training events have seen you lead personnel from diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences in a range of hostile and challenging environments."

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Both Johnny Mercer and Fred Thomas are standing for the seat of Plymouth Moor View [BBC]
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Mr Mercer said he questioned an interview Mr Thomas gave to the Guardian newspaper in 2023 which said Mr Thomas "served in combat missions".

He said his rival was trying to "bloat" his military record.

"I don't dispute that Fred Thomas served in the Royal Marines or indeed conducted one operational tour where he found himself in challenging environments - on the contrary I respect his service," he added.

The other candidates in Plymouth Moor View are Shaun Hooper for Reform UK, Sarah Martin for the Liberal Democrats and Georgia Nelson for the Green Party.

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