BoJo’s Govt a ‘Cesspit’ of ‘Snakes’ and ‘Cowards’: Sacked Veterans Minister

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Britain’s first Veterans Minister, now sacked, has denounced Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office a “cesspit” of “snakes” and “cowards”.

Johnny Mercer MP, a former Army captain who brought several combat tours in Afghanistan under his belt before becoming a Conservative MP and later the head of the small Office for Veterans’ Affairs, was pushed before he could jump ahead of his planned resignation from government.

The 39-year-old had informed the Prime Minister “as a courtesy” that he planned to resign over the government’s extended failure to protect veterans of the conflict in Northern Ireland, some of whom are now in their seventies and eighties, from repeated investigations over allegations from as much as half a century ago.

The Johnson government responded by leaking his plans ahead of time, trying to make him resign early, and then sacking him by text when he refused.

“That place is a cesspit,” said Mercer of the Johnson administration in comments to the Daily Mail.

“When I read an unnamed Government insider at No10 [Downing Street] saying, ‘We’ve destroyed his little plan to flounce out in a blaze of glory’ I realised they just didn’t get it. They cannot understand I would resign because I actually care about the veterans.”

Northern Ireland veterans were specifically excluded from the planned Overseas Operations Bill which gives some protection to veterans and servicemen from vexatious litigation for alleged offences abroad. Many IRA terrorists, by contrast, were either freed following the Good Friday Agreement or are protected from prosecution by so-called “comfort letters” issued by the government while they were on the run.

“We have failed in our promise to our Northern Ireland veterans,” Mercer stated bluntly.

“I can’t take it that we’ve cut these men off, so I’ll sit there and at least they’ll know they have one friend in the room – but that’s not citizen Johnny Mercer’s job, that’s the UK Government’s job,” he lamented.

“The levels of dishonesty currently in that place are unacceptable. We had a written ministerial statement that landed with the first reading of the Overseas Operations Bill that committed to equal treatment for those in Northern Ireland. That was a big deal. It was the first time the Government had committed to something,” he recalled, before revealing that he was later “asked to stop repeating that ministerial statement. I was asked to stop repeating our manifesto commitment. I was asked to stop repeating what the Prime Minister said at the despatch box.”

This flagrant breach of government commitments to Northern Ireland veterans echoes those of Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, who was exposed as having promised to stop elderly veterans who had already been investigated from being raked over the coals again in public while personally blocking protections for them in private.

Mercer went on to excuse Prime Minister Johnson — “my friend” — of personal responsibility for the betrayal, however, suggesting that “he was visibly shocked and upset by my experience in Government” when he was finally able to speak to him and “wasn’t acting” — “but he’s got a whole country to run.”

This will prove cold comfort to two veterans in advanced old age who are right now being put on trial over allegations they killed an IRA terrorist which were already investigated some five decades ago, however.

Mercer’s own political courage, if not his personal courage, have also been called into question in the past, with his having been one of the more high-profile people to join the pile-on against the dying and not deceased conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton when journalists from BuzzFeed and the New Statesman tried to use out of context and selectively edited quotes to “cancel” him.

Mercer offered a somewhat half-hearted apology once recordings and so on showed that Sir Roger had clearly been framed, resulting in his knee-jerk sacking as an unpaid government adviser on architecture being reversed, but raised eyebrows when he tried to defend himself by saying he had never even heard of the philosopher despite calling for his removal.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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