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Veteran Blocked From Using Army ID to Vote ‘Was Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer’s Sergeant Major’ in Afghanistan

Adam Diver became embroiled in a row with the minister after Mercer branded a Tweet about him being denied a vote as “fake news from a fake bloke”

Adam Diver pictured when serving in Afghanistan, plus Johnny Mercer, the Veterans Minister, with Rishi Sunak

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A decorated Army veteran, who sparked public outrage after being denied a vote when presenting his Veterans ID at May’s local elections, has revealed he was a Sergeant Major serving with Veteran’s Minister Johnny Mercer in Afghanistan, Byline Times can report. 

This newspaper first reported that Adam Diver – a decorated former Army officer who has served in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Northern Ireland – was turned away from voting as his Veteran photo ID card was refused as ‘unacceptable’ on 2 May. 

The 48-year-old, who was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his service of more than 27 years, spoke to Byline Times about his experience when trying to vote in the local elections in Fleetwood, Lancashire. 

All of the polling station staff present told him that his official Ministry of Defence-issued Veterans ID could not be used as a former of voter ID to cast his ballot.

“They were all apologetic, but it was a surreal and strange moment for me,” he said on the day.

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“I felt deflated and invalidated for my service. I still feel rubbish about it… I served for 27 years, and the staff still said no. I thought if you could use it anywhere, you should be able to use it for voting.” 

When he shared his story on X (formerly Twitter), it went viral – with Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer replying to Mr Diver – in response to a tweet expressing support for him from Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord, who served as a major in the Army for a decade. Minister Mercer wrote that it was “fake news from a fake bloke” and that “the individual hasn’t been barred at all”. 

Mr Mercer claimed that the Veterans ID card was “new” and would be on the accepted list at the next election. However, this is now untrue, given that the 2024 General Election is now just six weeks away and there is effectively no time to change the law on permitted IDs.

The story then took another twist.

On a train from Devon to London last weekend – barefoot following a soggy Dartmoor hike – Mr Mercer was working on his laptop, when a photo of his screen was snapped by a nearby politico and shared with The Times

As Byline Times reported earlier this week, the photo of a leaked memo by the Veterans Minister revealed that he had repeatedly lobbied Downing Street for veterans to be able to use their Veterans ID cards in order to vote. 

But, he wrote, his requests had been denied by those around Rishi Sunak due to fears that it would “open the floodgates” to students also being allowed to use their Student ID cards to vote. 

Mr Diver has told Byline Times that he would like answers and, potentially, an apology from Johnny Mercer.

Adam Diver now works with veterans groups to support ex-soldiers. Photo: Adam Diver

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed to this newspaper that, far from being a “fake bloke” – as some readers of Mr Mercer’s tweet may have assumed he meant – Diver is indeed a 27-year Army serviceman.

Mr Diver told Byline Times he served as a Sergeant Major in an army B Company in Afghanistan alongside the now-minister: “I was in an FOB [Forward Observation Base] with Johnny Mercer, as his Sergeant Major in Afghanistan. He was part of B Company, Lancashire Regiment, as a Captain. I was the Sergeant Major of B Company. 

“So he was attached to my company. You couldn’t make it up. So anything about this tweet, I’d like to know. Because I’d like to give him a Sergeant Major’s talk if required.”

After this article was published on 23 May, a representative for Johnny Mercer told Byline Times that Mr Diver “wasn’t his Sergeant Major” and that the “minister doesn’t know this man”. They also denied that the tweet (below) referred to Mr Diver when Mercer wrote of “fake news from a fake bloke”. A former army officer also told this outlet that as a commissioned officer of Captain rank, Johnny Mercer would have been formally superior to Mr Diver.

But Mr Diver added: “If it was [meant for me], he needs to explain himself, 100%… He can explain himself to me, especially given my track record. I’m actually keen to find out what he means by it. At the end of the day, I’ve not said anything personal about him.”

BREAKING

Vast Majority of Those Turned Away Over Voter ID in Local Elections Were ‘Non-White’ According to Polling Station Observers

The figure has surged compared to last year’s local elections, raising concerns over discrimination, the UK’s leading election monitoring group has warned

Mr Diver appeared on GB News after the voter ID debacle and “sang [Mr Mercer’s] praises”, but said he would be cautious about doing so again, having seen the minister’s tweet: “I’d say I wasn’t happy with what he said. I wouldn’t have gone on saying what I did.” 

He said he had not heard from the Veterans Minister or the Government about the voter ID issue.

“I’ve tried to meet him [before],” Mr Diver told Byline Times. “I went to Parliament last year to try and get welfare checks put in for veterans. I’ve been waiting for a response, to speak to [a minister]…

“We were waiting for Johnny to turn up, and waiting for some feedback on a veterans welfare check – we believe veterans should get a call when they leave the forces to see if they’re okay, to then link them into the services.

“I’m a mental health therapist and I look after veterans on a weekly basis. I get all the facts, speak to them. And I’ve been through it myself… We put a calling notice out, and we went to Parliament, me and my team. It was about four of us. We met with probably around 15 MPs of all parties, and we were hoping that Johnny would be there. But sadly, I’m not sure he could make it or not.”

An advisor for Johnny Mercer said that he had delegated the meeting to the Ministry of Defence (a representative from the department does not appear to have turned up).

Mr Diver is concerned about Veterans IDs being denied by accident – or by design, so as to not ‘open the floodgates’ to other demographics’ ID cards.

Byline Times needs your help to investigate disinformation and electoral exclusion as we head towards the 2024 General Election.

We’re asking for your help to keep track of dodgy campaigning this election, so if you spot anything that bears investigation, please email us at votewatch24@bylinetimes.com.

“If veterans ID can’t be used due to red tape, that’s a shame because we have had our veterans ID cards for years,” he said. “If it’s done by design, that’s even more of a shame.” 

A Cabinet Office official claimed that the broad approach the Government is taking around voter ID is to “strike the right balance between security and accessibility, and this being manageable for staff in polling stations”.

They added that individual university Student IDs will vary in format and processes across each university, but acceptable ID cards are being kept under review. National Union of Students cards are accepted if they are PASS accredited.

This story is the latest in a series of voter ID scandals, some of which have hit the Conservative Party itself.

Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt was forced to ask someone to cast a proxy vote on his behalf after forgetting his ID, according to a leaked WhatsApp message. He told the Mirror: “I’m a dyspraxic MP… one of the top characteristics is unfortunately we just tend to lose things from time-to-time… when you’ve got a complicated life split between two places it makes it challenging.”

MP and former Conservative Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has previously said that the introduction of voter ID by Boris Johnson’s Government was a form of gerrymandering designed to help the Conservative Party, claiming that it had potentially backfired due to older people sometimes lacking identification. 

This article was updated on 24 May 2024 to include an additional response from Johnny Mercer’s team received after publication. 3rd June 2024: We have also updated this piece to make clearer that as a Sergeant Major, Adam Diver was a non-commissioned officer. Johnny Mercer was a Captain at the time, a commissioned officer role to which a Sergeant Major is subordinate.

Stop the Student Votes: Leaked Memo Exposes the Real Purpose of Voter ID

The leaked memo reveals Downing Street feared letting veterans use their veteran IDs would “open the floodgates” to also making it easier for students to vote


Spotted something strange or face issues voting during the election campaign? Email josiah@bylinetimes.com

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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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