Jacob Rees-Mogg slams military top brass over strike complaints

‘Shut up and do as you’re told’: Ex-minister Jacob Rees-Mogg tells military top brass to stop complaining about troops having to cover for striking workers

  • Ex-business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg lashed out at head of the Armed Forces 
  • Admiral Tony Radakin said military is ‘busy’ and should not be ‘go-to’ to fill gaps
  • Rees-Mogg: ‘The job of the military is to do what they’re told by civilian(s)’

A former minister has launched an astonishing attack Britain’s military top brass, telling them to ‘do what they’re told’ and stop moaning about soldiers having to cover strikes.

Former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg lashed out after the head of the Armed Forces said troops should not be treated as ‘spare capacity’ to cover for industrial action.

As ministers prepare to deploy 1,200 troops to help with ambulances and guard borders,  Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin swiped that the military is ‘busy’ and should not be the ‘go-to’ to fill gaps. 

The waves of industrial action over the festive period means that the troops – many of whom are paid less than those on strike –  will have their Christmases ruined.

But speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night, Mr Rees-Mogg, who served in the cabinet under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, said: ‘I’m a bit worried about senior military figures sounding off on their opinions. 

‘I think the job of the military is to do what they’re told by civilian authorities. It’s not for the military to be expressing their views.

Ambulance workers, including paramedics and call handlers, are due to strike on Wednesday. A second ambulance strike is scheduled for December 28.


Former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg lashed out after the head of the Armed Forces said troops should not be treated as ‘spare capacity’ to cover for industrial action. As ministers prepare to deploy 1,200 troops to help with ambulances and guard borders, Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin swiped that the military is ‘busy’ and should not be the ‘go-to’ to fill gaps.

I don’t think this is constitutionally how it should be. The military are not there to be making political statements about what they will or won’t do, that should be private so I’m surprised that he’s making these comments.’

It came amid reports that Army reservists will be handed a bigger role in combatting future strikes and other national emergencies in future to ease the burden on full-time soldiers.

Up to 25,000 part-time squaddies could be drafted in under a new 2025 – 2030 ‘resilience’ plan due to be published today, with full-time soldiers only used as a last resort.

But that could create a row with businesses, with firms ordered to give reservists time off to help with crises, the Telegraph reported. 

It cited the document as saying: ‘In the future, as a part of Defence’s Integrated Operating model, it is envisaged that the reserves will play a greater role in resilience operations and MACA [Military Aid to Civil Authorities].

‘Key to this will be an enhanced relationship between defence and the employers of reservists who may be asked to release them for military duties at shorter periods of notice.’

It came as ministers publicly laid the blame for soldiers’ ruined Christmases on trade unions. 

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden yesterday  urged striking workers to think about military personnel missing Christmas to cover their roles. 

The Cabinet Office minister said there cannot be ‘irresponsible’ pay offers as he maintained the defiant stance despite escalating unrest.

Mr Dowden urged unions to call off strikes and ‘give the military a break this Christmas’.

‘I know the sacrifice that they are making in fulfilment of their duty,’ he told Times Radio.

The pointed comments came as unions claimed the military are not ‘sufficiently trained’ to plug staffing gaps on the front line. 

Mr Sunak has so far stood firm in the face of ‘unaffordable’ demands, including nurses calling for a 19 per cent pay rise, despite increasing signs of Tory alarm at the fallout. 

Along with 1,200 personnel from the Army, Navy and RAF, more than 1,000 civil servants are being brought in to prop up crucial services. 

While he made clear the military can take the extra responsibility ‘in our stride’, Sir Tony yesterday said viewing the forces as ‘the go-to’ would be ‘an unusual position for us to arrive at’.

‘We’re not spare capacity. We’re busy and we’re doing lots of things on behalf of the nation,’ he told The Sunday Telegraph.

‘We’ve got to focus on our primary role.

‘It would be slightly perilous to rely on defence to be doing all of these things as the ultimate backstop.’

He declined to be drawn on ‘political debates’, as he stressed the military are directed by the Government and ‘serve the nation’. 

Ministers have insisted their chief concern is public safety, but the Government has been accused of using troops to ‘mask’ the ‘effectiveness’ of industrial action.

Unions insist the Armed Forces should not be put in an ‘invidious’ position when they already have ‘enough on their plate’.

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