DETRACTORS who slated a scheme to deliver treats to troops at Christmas have been criticised for politicising a gesture of goodwill by Burton MP Andrew Griffiths.
The Support our Soldiers appeal, launched last week by the Conservative politician, has been labelled as little more than a cynical PR stunt by Labour supporters in the area, because of the level of defence cuts which have been made since the Coalition Government came into power.
However, the local branch of the Royal British Legion have said there should be no argument about politics in this case, as the scheme is simply aimed at providing comfort for serving soldiers who are forced to be separated from their families at a difficult time of year.
Anne Compton, secretary for the Burton branch of the organisation, said: “I don’t see anything political about it. Politics should not be drawn in to something which is about goodwill. I would say good luck to Mr Griffiths.”
Leading the detractors has been Labour’s Jon Wheale, who will be standing against Mr Griffiths in the next election. He responded to the launch of the scheme with a message on microblogging site Twitter which said: “Is this a joke @agriffithsmp? Your Gov has made 1000s of servicemen redundant! Festive cheer to soldiers.”
He later told the Mail: “As a former soldier from Burton of course I support whole-heartedly any initiative seeking their betterment.
“I feel very strongly about the Tory-led Government’s cuts to defence. Cuts to defence generally and the many thousands of soldiers being made redundant are due to decisions taken by the Government. These decisions have devastated morale.
“Whatever is done locally to support soldiers’ morale is inevitably reliant upon central government decision-making. The Government must take responsibility for these cuts to defence and the effect this Government has had on Armed Forces morale.”
South Derbyshire Labour councillor Paul Dunn added that he thought Mr Griffiths’ time would be better used by lobbying the Prime Minister to stem cuts to the Armed Forces, than getting involved in cynical ‘stunts’.
The scheme has seen a box put in Coopers Square, where people can donate items such as sweets and toiletries to go to servicemen and women.