A charitable way of putting it would be to say that veterans minister Andrew Robathan was ‘ill-advised’ to compare the Arctic Convoy veterans’ campaign for a medal to the high number of gongs handed out by dictators such as Colonel Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein.
But we doubt these men, who bravely delivered vital wartime cargo and munitions to Russia in freezing conditions, feel very charitable about Mr Robathan right now. And why should they? His remark was crass and offensive.
Yet in a statement, Mr Robathan failed to say sorry. He merely said he didn’t mean to cause any offence.
We believe that Mr Robathan should now consider his position. And if he won’t do so, then perhaps prime minister David Cameron should make that decision for him by stripping him of his ministerial responsibility. Do we want such a man in charge of veterans’ affairs?
Surely Mr Cameron would not wish to condone what has been said. Defence secretary Philip Hammond has already told MPs on the defence select committee that he ‘deeply regrets’ any offence that has been caused.
This, remember, isn’t the first time Mr Robathan has clashed with the Arctic Convoy veterans. In July, he blithely inquired if it was their dying wish to have their own medal.
These dignified veterans, supported by The News, have campaigned for a long, long time to get what they believe should be theirs. Each year their numbers dwindle and there are now just 200 left who repeatedly made what Churchill called ‘the worst journey in the world’.
But a Ministry of Defence review of the whole medals system has now been scrapped and promises of an Arctic Star medal made by successive Tory leaders, including Mr Cameron, have come to nought.
Now Mr Robathan has rubbed salt into the wound with his disgraceful, derisory comments. One more snub for veterans who deserve respect and admiration, yet receive nothing of the sort from this government.