What on earth does Andrew Mitchell hope to achieve by reviving ‘Gate-gate’, three months after the event?
It seems a police officer who was not on duty, but allegedly witnessed the incident last September when Mitchell verbally abused a colleague at the gate to Downing Street, has been arrested under suspicion of falsifying his report.
And Mitchell himself has appeared on television, telling ITV News the contents of the police log of the event – which would have been written by the man he attacked – were falsified.
It would be very easy to take these two things together, and believe that the police faked the incident. That would be completely wrong. They are separate things.
First, we have the investigation into the officer who was off-duty. There is a suggestion that this person may not have witnessed the incident at all, but still supplied an account of it to his MP.
From there, it seems we are supposed to believe that The Sun was able to get the same person to provide it with a copy of a confidential Metropolitan Police report on the incident. The constable was arrested as part of a wider inquiry into how confidential Met information got into national newspapers.
That doesn’t have anything to do with the first-hand report, written by the policeman who actually received a tongue-lashing from Mitchell.
This states that, when asked to get off his bicycle and refrain from using the vehicle entrance to Downing Street (there’s a pedestrian entrance as well), Mitchell subjected the officer to a string of abuse, told him to “learn your place” and said “You don’t run this government”. The piece de resistance was the allegation that Mitchell described the policeman as a “pleb”.
Mitchell has always disputed the exact words, especially the “pleb” appellation. But he has admitted an incident took place, and admitted saying “I thought you guys were supposed to f*cking help us”. That’s enough for him to be arrested on a charge of abusing a police officer, which is a public order offence. Mitchell is on record as having apologised “profusely” to the officer. That comes from a Downing Street statement.
So why is he saying the police log of the incident is false?
Apparently, on ITV News on Monday, he said: “I’d just like to reiterate once again that it’s the contents of the alleged police log which are false … they are false and I want to make that very clear.”
He’s not just referring to the “pleb” reference here – he’s talking about the log of the entire incident. That’s an incident which he has admitted took place. For which he apologised. “Profusely”.
I do not believe him.
Not only is the first-hand evidence against him, I think we should remember that weight is given to the honesty of the police. It has to be – they deal with contentious situations on a regular basis and it is therefore necessary for us to rely on their integrity in accounts that follow, such as court cases. Even after the revelations about cover-ups such as Hillsborough or (going back a bit) the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, I don’t think we should be discouraged from believing the average bobby on the beat is actually trying to uphold the law, not undermine it. If you want corruption, look further up the ranks.
It is also very important to see this in the context of other Conservative MPs and their alleged misdeeds. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is investigating Maria Miller over her expenses claims (as is well-documented, including in this blog). And George Osborne used taxpayers’ money to make up to £1 million on property including a farmhouse and paddock in Cheshire; he claimed the cash as Parliamentary expenses so we are meant to believe the paddock was a necessary expense incurred by his duties as an MP. What utter nonsense!
Let’s not forget Liam Fox, who became a former Defence Secretary after misbehaviour was alleged against him.
So Conservatives have been giving themselves a bad reputation. It seems to me that they want to tidy up their image. What better place to start than by undermining and rubbishing their worst PR disaster of 2012?
I do not believe them.
My advice is that you should not believe them either.