It doesn’t really matter what Mr Justice Mitting decided yesterday – the public made up its mind about Andrew Mitchell on the day ‘Plebgate’ happened, more than two years ago.
As Vox Political reported on the short temper and long decline of Mr Mitchell in 2012 (and how true those words about “long decline” turned out to be): There was little doubt from the start that he told PC Toby Rowlands to “learn your place” and called him a “pleb” – but he was only continuing a tradition of insulting the common citizenry of this nation that has been alive and well throughout this Parliament.
We had already heard about the book Britannia Unchained, by Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, who argued that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”. And what about Philip Davies, the Tory MP who said the disabled should be “allowed” to work for half the minimum wage (long before Lord Freud’s recent, ill-chosen words)?
We all need to accept that Mr Mitchell’s remarks to the Downing Street policeman are representative of the way the majority of Conservatives see the British population, this blog argued – and those words ring as true today as they did then.
So it is a relief that Mr Justice Mitting threw out Mitchell’s libel case against The Sun newspaper (which had reported Mr Rowlands’ version of events), ruling that Mitchell probably did call police officers “plebs”, describing his behaviour as “childish” and saying he found Mitchell’s version of events inconsistent with CCTV footage of the row in Downing Street in 2012.
It is a further relief that Mitchell may face costs of £2 million – and, before anyone accuses this blog of vindictiveness, let us reflect on the fact that, on the day Andrew Mitchell finally resigned as Chief Whip after the incident in question, George Osborne was found fare-dodging on a train (he was sitting in First Class but had only a standard ticket). Mr Osborne received the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
It seems Mitchell will be a rare example of a wrong-doing government MP getting the punishment he deserves.
There are other aspects to this story – police officers who gave false evidence in support of PC Rowland’s claim have been dismissed, and officers from the West Mercia force who claimed there was no case of misconduct for them to answer are facing serious questions about their future.
But the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which said that the row should have led to disciplinary action for the officer involved, now owes an apology to that office, as PC Rowland has been vindicated by Mr Justice Mitting’s decision.
That being said, the words used by the judge were not entirely favourable. He said Mr Rowlands was “not the sort of man who would have had the wit, imagination or inclination to invent on the spur of the moment an account of what a senior politician had said to him in temper”.
Never mind, Toby – a win is a win.
And it is yet more bad news for beleaguered Prime Minister David Cameron, who supported Mitchell during the first month of the affair before reluctantly accepting his resignation.
This is yet another example of poor judgement displayed by our not-very-funny comedy prime minister, who also employed Andy Coulson – now a convicted criminal (although he has now been released from prison after serving only a quarter of his sentence for phone hacking crimes) – and George Osborne (whose performance in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday raised serious concerns about whether he should be made to take a urine toxicology test).
Cameron is also having to backtrack on his claim that his government would get net immigration down into the tens of thousands, after it was revealed that it is now higher than when his Coalition came into office.
Oh, and a quick check just revealed that #CameronMustGo is still trending on Twitter.
How long do you think it’ll have to stay there before he takes the hint?