Downing Street is refusing to comment on claims that Gordon Brown was snubbed by badly injured Afghan veterans when he visited Selly Oak Hospital.
The prime minister was on a private tour of the Birmingham hospital’s military wing where war heroes with life-threatening injuries are treated when several soldiers staged an embarrassing protest by drawing the curtains around their beds and refusing to talk to him
One Sapper, who lost both legs and his right arm when a bomb exploded on a dirt track outside the Afghanistan town of Sangin, said 26 soldiers were asked by nurses whether they wished to meet Mr Brown. At least half said they did not want to do so, 20-year-old Matthew Weston said.
Mr Weston added: “I didn’t want to speak to him. I didn’t want to waste my time talking to someone who was just trying to make themselves look good. I spent the day with my family instead.
“Half the lads didn’t want to speak to him and those that did pretty much blamed him for everything. Many of the lads just closed their curtains and hid themselves away.”
Mr Weston, whose comments were reported in a national newspaper, added that one badly injured soldier tried to leave the hospital in an attempt to avoid Mr Brown.
Another, unnamed, soldier who refused to talk to Mr Brown in protest at government plans to cut compensation payments for wounded soldiers, said: “I went outside for a fag but when I came back in he was still there. Most of us said we wouldn’t like to see him so we drew our curtains and waited for him to go.”
The incident happened in September after Mr Brown expressed a wish to visit the hospital’s military wing, which is run by the Ministry of Defence.
Two days after his visit to Selly Oak, Mr Brown paid tribute to injured soldiers during a speech in London. He said: “There is nothing more heartbreaking than, as I did this week, meeting a teenager who has lost a leg.”
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “The Prime Minister regularly visits wounded service personnel. He has the utmost respect and admiration for the soldiers’ sacrifice, bravery and dignity. As you would expect, we never comment on the PM’s private visits to injured soldiers.”