‘I was treated like s*** throughout’: Sacked veterans minister Johnny Mercer accuses Boris Johnson of surrounding himself with ‘cowards’ and ‘desperately weak people’

  • Johnny Mercer sacked as veterans minister by Boris Johnson earlier this week
  • Was sacked after row over Government treatment of soldiers in Northern Ireland
  • Mr Mercer has said the Government is the ‘most distrustful, awful environment’ 
  • He accused the PM of surrounding himself with ‘desperately weak’ advisers 

Former veterans minister Johnny Mercer has stepped up his war of words with Downing Street after he accused Boris Johnson of surrounding himself with ‘cowards’ and ‘desperately weak’ special advisers. 

Mr Mercer was sacked earlier this week after expressing frustration at a lack of progress over legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.   

The former Army officer has delivered a savage assessment of his time in the Government as he said he had been ‘treated like s*** throughout’. 

He claimed Mr Johnson had surrounded himself with ‘people who will endlessly tell you what you want to hear’ and hit out at the way in which he left the Government after he was sacked via text – a move he described as ‘weak’ and ’embarrassing’.

The comments came after Mr Mercer had already described the Government as the ‘most distrustful, awful environment’ he had ever worked in and compared UK politics to 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’. 

He also accused ministers of a ‘gross betrayal of people who signed up to serve in the military’. 

Mr Mercer has been replaced in the veterans minister role by former Scots Guard captain Leo Docherty.

Johnny Mercer has stepped up his war of words with Downing Street after he accused Boris Johnson of surrounding himself with ‘cowards’ and ‘desperately weak’ special advisers. He is pictured on ITV’s Peston programme last night

Mr Mercer claimed Mr Johnson had surrounded himself with ‘people who will endlessly tell you what you want to hear’

In his formal exchange of letters with the Prime Minister, Mr Mercer said he was ‘forced’ to offer his resignation with a ‘heavy heart’.

Mr Mercer told The Telegraph that ‘leadership is all about who you surround yourself with’ in an apparent jibe at Mr Johnson. 

‘If you surround yourself with desperately weak people who will endlessly tell you what you want to hear, driven by SpAds [special advisers] who have that classic combination of overconfidence blended perfectly with total ineptitude, you will get surprises,’ he said. 

The Tory MP had informed Number 10 ahead of time of his intention to quit at the despatch box in the House of Commons but the information went public and Mr Mercer has accused Downing Street of ‘leaking’ it. 

He told the newspaper: ‘It’s safe to say I felt like I was treated like s*** throughout, and the last act of leaking my resignation, which I sent as a courtesy only to Number 10 so that I didn’t ambush them, was a huge mistake.

‘And then when I refused to resign I challenged the Chief Whip to look me in the eye and sack me. He couldn’t do it, I left and he texted me. That summed it up. What cowards.’ 

Mr Mercer told ITV’s Peston programme about being sacked by text: ‘It is a bit of a disaster. It didn’t go as I planned. I thought I was doing the right thing.

‘It is poor. It is weak. It is embarrassing. But that is the way some people operate in Westminster.’

Mr Mercer had blasted the Government yesterday afternoon in an interview with Times Radio. 

He said he believes Mr Johnson is ‘deeply committed’ to the Northern Ireland veterans issue ‘but the truth is that nothing, nothing has been done’. 

He said: ‘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. 

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’

‘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.’   

Mr Mercer 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. 

‘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 this week 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.

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