Jonny’s big idea
UK politics is riddled by divisiveness, incoherence and inaction. We need more ex-service women and men in politics. Their values and experience will deliver unifying, actionable policies. Campaign Force inspires, trains and coaches veterans in standing for election. Critically, Campaign Force does not support any one political party. The slogan: “Stand up and serve again!”
Around 15,000 leave the armed forces in the UK each year and some struggle to apply their services skills in civilian life. Jonny has served in the reserves since he was 17 and was on operational tours in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. He could see how services skills could be transferred to benefit the political life in the UK and that very few veterans were standing for election. He decided to do something about this.
How did the Military Tycoon programme help?
Jonny came to the programme with a website, some thought leadership articles and, in his own words, a dream. The programme helped because:
In his own words
Campaign Force introduces veterans to politics, we share the secrets of campaigning, and we share the journey.
I believe passionately in the value that ex-service women and men can bring to political life in the UK. And I believe the time is now – veterans bring something positive that cuts across the party divide, which is badly needed.
Service is very compatible with politics. The notion of service is old fashioned but necessary in this political climate. When veterans leave the services their desire to serve doesn’t suddenly go away – so let’s mobilise that. Vets can make the country better.
Veterans bring a commonality that cuts across social class and culture. In the forces you are taken at face value – you are part of the mission and that’s all that matters to anyone.
We’re used to strategic communication and contingency planning – just look at Brexit as an example of where veterans can add value. We have the ability to communicate with authenticity and sincerity. And we have the resilience to keep going even when things get difficult – an essential skill for the modern day politician.
I want to insert these values into the UK’s political life which is currently so tribal and divided. What’s vital is that Campaign Forces is completely party-neutral. I can point to fantastic examples of MPs who are veterans in each big party, with say, Johnny Mercer in the Conservatives and Dan Jarvis on Labour. And the late Paddy Ashdown from the LibDems was a Royal Marine veteran and a giant in politics.
In civilian life I worked on local, national and European elections. And I led the Ministry of Defence’s employer relationship management team. I’ve also worked with former Conservative Party chairman, MP Grant Shapps and Andrea Leadsom.
The veteran community represents a cross-section of society
The veteran community is also a lot more representative of society than a lot of people think. Stonewall listed the RAF Royal Navy and Royal Marines in the top 100 employers, above the University of Brighton Full List Top 100 Employers 2019. And people often forget we recruit from a diverse range of nations – from India and Nigeria to Fiji and more.
So, when does Campaign Force kick off?
I’ve already held a number of events, one of which I held at Sage’s office in London Bridge. Johnny Mercer, currently Minister for Veteran Affairs, attended to lend his support.
Attendees have included women, a Ghurka and a Canadian who was with the Rifles in Afghanistan. I’m aiming to appeal to everyone from private soldiers to colonels, from all cultures, and I’ll be running at least four events a year around the UK.
And then what?
What we really need are some disabled, wounded or sick Members of Parliament. I can already see how events like the Invictus Games are changing perceptions of wounded soldiers, so I’d like to support some to run for office. And more women – less than a third of parliamentarians are women.
Advice for entrepreneurs
Find support and collaboration. It beats being alone in your room. Being around people who have faith in you and who can help to sharpen up your ideas is invaluable.
Campaign Force also has the support of Lord David Richards, former Chief of Defence Staff.
“I am delighted to support Campaign Force’s mission to encourage veterans to serve again in public life. I have benefitted first-hand from the skills and values that the men and women of our Armed Forces bring to any given situation in the toughest of environments. It makes sense that this potential is realised not only by employers when they leave, but in public service too, where they really can be a force for good.”