Sides of the Scandal

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Facts of the matter:

Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative Chief Whip, attracted condemnation last week for his out- burst at No. 10 police officers. The row broke out when Mitchell attempted to get his bicycle through the main Downing Street gate, only to be refused by the officer.

Mitchell, whose time as International Devel- opment Secretary has obviously failed to de- velop his more gentle side, confessed to swear- ing – though not to using the word ‘pleb’, as the official police report indicated. Meanwhile police officers in Mitchell’s constituency of Sut- ton Coldfield have taken to wearing ‘PC Pleb’ T- shirts in support of their disgruntled Downing Street colleagues.

For the moment it seems Mitchell has held on to his job, the PM trusting his own account of the incident. No.10 has expressed its ‘full confi- dence’ in the Chief Whip.

Just don’t expect another promotion in the next reshuffle, Andrew.

Innocent?

Charles Moore of the Spectator jumped to Mitchell’s defence, however. Questioning the veracity of the police report, Moore thinks that Mitchell – notwithstanding a ‘lapse of judge- ment’ – has been set up. At a time when polic- ing is bearing the brunt of austerity, Moore believes that the Police Federation – the union representing police officers – is exacting its re- venge on the government.

Staunchly defying the national condem- nation of the Chief Whip’s outburst, Moore writes: ‘At first I felt quite prepared to con- demn Mr Mitchell for being arrogant, but the self-righteousness of the reaction against him is so overwhelming that one must come down firmly on his side.’

Erik Pickles, the Secretary of State for Com- munities who claims he is ‘very proud to be a pleb’, described Mitchell’s outburst as ‘ungal- lant’ and ‘ungentlemanly’ but dismissed calls for his resignation.

Until proven guilty!

Political figures were quick to take sides over the issue, dividing not along party lines but be- tween two camps – those who are friends with Mitchell, and those who aren’t. Daniel Hannan, a prominent Conservative MEP, tweeted, ‘it’s hard to think of worse behaviour than insult- ing a police officer who is ready to place him- self between you and a bullet.’

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Indeed, the incident took place only two days after the murder of two police officers in Great- er Manchester, so Mitchell’s timing could not have been worse. Janet Daley of the Telegraph, published her own tale about the bad manners of nasty Tories. Charlie Catchpole of the Mirror said, ‘Britain’s class war has been raging for centuries and Rugby School educated Mitch- ell’s pleb insult carries on the tradition’

Boris Johnson also chipped into the debacle. Perhaps seeing the Chief Whip as a future rival, the London Mayor said he was ‘very glad to see’ Mitchell was threatened with arrest.