A former minister who was sacked after a row over the treatment of soldiers in Northern Ireland has said the Government is the ‘most distrustful, awful environment’ he has ever worked in.
Johnny Mercer left the Government yesterday after expressing frustration at a lack of progress over legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles.
A furious Mr Mercer today gave Whitehall both barrels as he claimed ‘almost nobody tells the truth’ and UK politics is like a ‘cesspit’.
Mr Mercer said he exited the Government because he felt like he was the ‘last man in the room who’s willing to fulfil our manifesto commitments’ as he also accused ministers of a ‘gross betrayal of people who signed up to serve in the military’.
Mr Mercer has already been replaced in the veterans minister role by former Scots Guard captain Leo Docherty.
Former Army officer Mr Mercer yesterday said he was ‘sorry to have been relieved of my responsibilities in Government’ amid reports that he was sacked by Boris Johnson.
Johnny Mercer left the Government yesterday after expressing frustration at a lack of progress over legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles
Former Army officer Mr Mercer yesterday said he was ‘sorry to have been relieved of my responsibilities in Government’ amid reports that he was sacked by Boris Johnson
In his formal exchange of letters with the Prime Minister, Mr Mercer said he was ‘forced’ to offer his resignation with a ‘heavy heart’.
In an interview with Times Radio broadcast this afternoon, Mr Mercer blasted the Government.
He said: ‘I think Boris Johnson is deeply committed to this agenda. I think he wants to deliver it. But the truth is that nothing, nothing has been done.
‘And we’ve had an incredibly difficult year with coronavirus and all the rest of it and he’s the Prime Minister. He’s got all these challenges going on. And I respect that and I totally accept that.
‘But he should, you know, he should expect his ministers I think to be as committed to the manifesto as he is, alright. And if I’m made to feel like I’m the last man in the room who’s willing to fulfil our manifesto commitments, there’s something wrong. We reached that point, so I left.’
Mr Mercer continued: ‘This is the most distrustful, awful environment I’ve ever worked in, in government.
‘Almost nobody tells the truth is what I’ve worked out over the last 36 hours. And, you know, so I don’t think anyone really can get on their high horse about trust and ethics and all the rest of it in politics, because as far as I’m concerned, most of it is a bit of a cesspit, I think we do have a clear commitment to follow through on our promises and do right by those who serve.’
The Tory MP said he believed the Government was guilty of a ‘gross betrayal’ by failing to do more to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles.
He said: ‘The reality is that for these people, their experiences after having served this nation, 50 years later, they are constantly being dragged over to Northern Ireland, and asked to relive their experiences, it is people are drinking themselves to death.
Mr Mercer published his resignation letter which revealed he was ‘forced’ to leave Government
Mr Mercer said he will lobby on behalf of Northern Ireland veterans in Parliament, having said he made promises to those troops in Mr Johnson’s name
10 Downing Street claimed Mr Mercer resigned, but the former veterans minister said he was ‘relieved of my responsibilities’ in Government
‘It is breaking up families, it is ruining our finest people. And all they did was serve at the behest of this government at the behest of the House of Commons, to uphold the rule of law on the peace and when the peace in Northern Ireland.
‘And yet now we’re happy to cut them off to people who want to rewrite history. And that is all that’s going on, you know that nothing’s changed here.
‘But the politics, and for me, it’s a gross betrayal of people who signed up to serve in the military.’
Mr Mercer has been heavily involved in the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, which was being considered by MPs today as it goes through its final stages in Parliament.
The legislation was developed in response to legal claims made after operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not cover incidents in Northern Ireland.