Widespread calls for veteran minister to go

UNDER PRESSURE Andrew Robathan MP. Inset, Falklands War veteran Simon Weston
UNDER PRESSURE Andrew Robathan MP. Inset, Falklands War veteran Simon Weston
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WAR heroes, MPs and former military chiefs have called for minister Andrew Robathan to be sacked following his ‘disgusting’ remarks about Arctic Convoy veterans who are fighting for a medal.

The minister has faced widespread condemnation after he compared the Arctic heroes’ claim for their own war medal to the awards ‘thrown around’ by tyrants like Colonel Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il.

Falklands War veteran Simon Weston

Falklands War veteran Simon Weston

Falklands War veteran Simon Weston came out in support of the war heroes and said: ‘The minister should think long and hard about resigning over this terrible insult. It was a cheap shot.’

Colonel Richard Kemp, who led British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, said: ‘No-one who understands armed conflict could suggest that a medal recognising the Arctic Convoys in any way undermines our country’s long-established system of military awards.’

The row has led to a motion in the Scottish parliament calling for Mr Robathan to resign.

SNP politician Rob Gibson said: ‘It was absolutely disgusting to hear these comments – especially from the UK Veterans Minister.’

The 91-year-old leader of the Arctic Medal campaign, Commander Eddie Grenfell, of Portsea, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for Mr Robathan to be sacked.

He said: ‘This arrogant man is not the Veterans Minister, but the “hate veterans minister”.’

Former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band added: ‘To talk about these men in the same breath as foreign dictators is extraordinary. It was unfortunate.’

But Downing Street officials have so far stood by Mr Robathan and said he does an important job.

In a statement, Mr Robathan said there was no intention to offend veterans with the comments he made in a Commons debate on Tuesday.

HOW TO SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN

HUNDREDS of people have signed an online petition calling for an Arctic Star medal at portsmouth.co.uk/arcticconvoys.

More than 3,000 British sailors died to keep the Soviet Union fighting in the Second World War.

Of 900 allied warships and merchant ships on the 78 convoys, 104 merchant and 21 Royal Navy ships were sunk by Nazi U-boats, planes and battleships.

Around 66,500 men took part in the convoys of cargo and munitions to Russia. If they had failed to deliver, Hitler could have defeated the Red Army and turned the full might of his military against Britain.

However, those men have never been given their own medal.

The Tories promised to strike an Arctic Star medal when they next came to power, but ministers have so far snubbed the ageing veterans.