It’s a sad indictment of our legal system that Andrew Mitchell, the MP who lost his rag at the gates of Downing Street when a policeman told him to dismount from his bicycle, has been ordered to pay just £80,000 in damages after he tried to ruin the copper’s career.
Mitchell’s tirade against PC Toby Rowland infamously included the word ‘pleb’. He denied this and made other claims which led PC Rowland to sue him for defamation. That case was won on November 27 last year – more than two years after the incident took place in September 2012.
Now it has been announced that PC Rowland has accepted an offer of just £80,000 in damages from Mr Mitchell, whose lucrative £18,000-a-day second career with asset management firm Investec means he will, in effect, lose less than a week’s wages.
Less than one week’s wages – from a second job Mitchell shouldn’t have – in punishment for putting this police officer through 26 months of agony, simply for doing his duty.
Not to be taken seriously: This version of Andrew Mitchell’s court statement was presented satirically by Pride’s Purge. The article is at http://tompride.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/exclusive-andrew-mitchells-previously-unreleased-court-statement-on-plebgate/
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?
Why does the BBC want us to pay more attention to a squabble between this overprivileged cyclist and a policeman than to the wholesale privatisation of the National Health Service, for which we have all paid with our taxes?
In the mid-1990s I interviewed for a reporter’s job at the then-fledgeling BBC News website. I didn’t get it.
Considering the BBC’s current output and apparent lack of news sense, I am now very glad that I did not succeed. I would be ashamed to have that as a line on my CV.
Unfortunately, the BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on British television – and 40 per cent of online news read by the public. It has a stranglehold on most people’s perception of the news – and it is clearly biased.
Take today’s story about PC Keith Wallis, who has admitted misconduct in the ‘Plebgate’ affair by falsely claiming to have overheard the conversation between Andrew Mitchell and another police officer. He admitted the falsehood at a court hearing in the Old Bailey.
The case is important because he had been lying in order to support the allegation that Mr Mitchell had shouting a torrent of profanities at the other police officer, Toby Rowland, after being stopped from cycling through Downing Street’s main gates. PC Rowland had alleged that one of the words used had been the derogatory word “pleb”, and the resulting scandal had forced Mitchell to resign as Tory Chief Whip.
It casts doubt on the integrity of Metropolitan police officers – a further four are facing charges of gross misconduct.
However, the officer at the centre of the case – PC Rowlands – is not among them. He remains adamant that his version of events is correct and is suing Mitchell for libel over comments he made about the incident which the officer claims were defamatory.
This is the story the BBC decided to make the lead on all its news bulletins, all day. It contains no evidence contradicting PC Rowland’s allegations against Mitchell; the worst that can be said is that the admission of guilt casts a shadow over the entire Metropolitan police service – and in fairness, that is a serious matter.
But the fact is that people will use this to discredit PC Rowland and rehabilitate the reputation of an MP who was a leading member of the Coalition government until the incident took place – and that is wrong. It is an inaccurate interpretation of the information, but the BBC is supporting it by giving the story the prominence it has received.
In contrast, let’s look at the way it handled revelations about the Coalition government’s plans to change the National Health Service, back when the Health and Social Care Act was on its way through Parliament.
You will be aware that Andrew Lansley worked on the then-Bill for many years prior to the 2010 election, but was forbidden from mentioning this to anybody ahead of polling day (see Never Again? The story of the Health and Social Care Act 2012). Meanwhile all election material promised no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS. Former cabinet minister Michael Portillo, speaking about it on the BBC’s This Week, said: “[The Tories] didn’t believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do.” Considering the immensity of the changes – NHS boss David Nicholson said they were “visible from space” – this lie should have sparked a major BBC investigation. What did we get?
After Lansley released his unpopular White Paper on health, David Cameron tried to distance himself from the backlash by claiming “surprise” at how far they went. This was an early example of the comedy Prime Minister’s ability to lie (so many have issued from his lips since then that we should have a contest to choose the Nation’s favourite), as he helped write the Green Papers that preceded this document (see Never Again). If it was possible for the authors of Never Again to dig out this information, it should certainly have been possible for the BBC. What did we get?
Not a word.
In contrast to Cameron, Lansley, and any other Tory’s claims that there would be no privatisation of the NHS, KPMG head of health Mark Britnell (look him up – he’s an interesting character in his own right) said the service would be shown “no mercy” and would become a “state insurance provider, not a state deliverer”. This important revelation that the Tories had been lying received coverage in less popular outlets like The Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail but the BBC only mentioned it in passing – four days after the story broke – to explain a comment by Nick Clegg.
One of the key elements used to get members of the medical profession on-side with the Lansley Act was the claim that GPs would commission services. This was a lie. It was well-known when the plans were being drafted that general practitioners simply would not have time for such work and it was expected that they would outsource the work to private management companies – many of whom would also have a hand in service delivery. There is a clear conflict of interest in this. East London GP Jonathan Tomlinson told Channel 4 that the scale of private involvement would be so large as to include “absolutely everything that commissioning involves”. This was a clear betrayal of the promise to GPs. The BBC never mentioned it.
Another phrase trotted out by the Tories was that the changes would increase “patient choice” – by which we were all intended to believe patients would have more opportunity to choose the treatment they received and who provided it. This is a lie. The new Clinical Commissioning Groups created by the Act – and run, not by doctors, but by private healthcare companies on their own behalf – have a duty to put services out to tender unless they are sure that only one provider is able to offer a service. In reality, this means all services must be opened up to the private sector as no CCG could withstand a legal challenge from a snubbed private provider. But this makes a mockery of Andrew Lansley’s promise that CCGs could choose when and with whom to commission.
In turn, this means private firms will be able to ‘cherry-pick’ the easiest and cheapest services to provide, and regulations also mean they can choose to provide those services only for those patients they believe will cost the least money. Anyone with complicated, difficult, or long-term conditions will be thrown to the wolves. In other words, far from patients having increased choice, the Health and Social Care Act means private companies will be able to choose the patients they treat.
We are still waiting for the BBC to report this.
Add it all up and you will see that the largest news-gathering organisation in the UK – and possibly the world – sees more news value in a slanging match between an MP and a policeman than it does in the wholesale betrayal of every single citizen of the country.
Why do we allow this to continue?
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Andrew Mitchell: Either you believe him when he says the police log of ‘Gate-gate’ (or ‘Plebgate’) was false, or you believe him when he admitted abusing a policeman and apologised “profusely” for it. I prefer not to believe a word he says.
The announcement that former Coalition chief whip Andrew Mitchell has made a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission about the so-called ‘plebgate’ row almost made me smile. Almost.
Having had experience of this organisation and it’s amazing cover-up tactics, supporting police officers who deny the existence of any laws that conflict with what they’ve done, I view the affair with scepticism.
If the outcome goes badly for him, it will confirm the IPCC’s position as principle rubber-stamping organisation for police behaviour – no matter whether they have behaved rightly or wrongly.
If it comes out in his favour, for me, it will confirm that the system works only for privileged members of society such as Mr Mitchell – those in influential positions – and not for ordinary citizens like the rest of us.
The facts of the case are completely unimportant to the outcome. Inconsequential.
For the record, it relates to an incident on September 19 last year, when it was alleged that the then-Chief Whip swore at police, calling them “plebs” (of all things) when they refused to open the Downing Street gates for him to cycle through on his pushbike.
Mitchell resigned his position but CCTV coverage later cast doubt on the accepted version of events and four people, including three police officers, have since been arrested.
Now, in a letter to the IPCC, Mr Mitchell has accused the police of a “dishonest and illicit attempt to blacken my name and destroy my career”.
Personal experience tells me he’d better have a mountain of evidence to back up that claim.
My own experience, as outlined in previous Vox articles, related to an incident in which somebody illegally published information identifying an alleged crime victim, in an attempt to blacken a suspect’s name, prior to a trial. I reported this, quoting the relevant law down to the section and paragraph, to the police – who flatly refused to investigate, claiming that the law had not been broken by ignoring the references I had given and referring to a different section of the same legislation – a section that was totally irrelevant to the nature of the crime.
You see, prosecuting this individual would have been inconvenient as it would have weakened the case against the suspect they had lined up for trial. Easier to flout the law, apparently. One law for us… another law for them.
I made a full, detailed complaint to the IPCC, quoting the relevant legislation with a printout of it from the government’s own website, pointing out where the officer involved had gone wrong, and explaining why I believed the error was intentional. All I got for my efforts was another flat refusal to acknowledge the facts. The investigator spoke with the officer and decided that his interpretation of the law was correct – despite having it quoted to them, in black and white, by me! For me, the only way forward from that point would have been to hire a lawyer and get a judicial review, but that costs money and I simply don’t have enough. Again, it’s one law for us… another law for them.
Mr Mitchell, on the other hand, does have money. But since he is, by definition, a member of “them”, any success he may enjoy will not affect the fact that is the theme of this article, which is (one last time):
It’s one law for us… another law for them.
Actually, now that I have a police commissioner, I might take the case to him and see what he makes of it. At least, that way, he’ll have something to do. The outcome will show whether his appointment – and that of all the others – really was the waste of time and money that the vast majority of Britons believe it to have been.
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.
“If you get 100 points for shooting one policewoman and 200 points for shooting two policewomen, how many do you get for shooting a lawyer?”
With these words, Derbyshire Conservative councillor David Stephenson signed his political career’s death warrant.
It was clear that he was referring to the deaths of PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Tameside, and for Stephenson it was a sick joke too far.
But he would have got away with it if it had not been heard by the wife of serving police sergeant Jason Farrar, who telephoned the councillor to complain and was told to “go away, you silly man”.
In response, the officer contacted Derbyshire police federation, MP Jessica Lee and Erewash Borough Council leader Chris Corbett, who immediately removed Stephenson from the council executive and from the list of approved Conservative candidates, so he will not be allowed to stand for re-election as a Conservative.
That’s a bit different from what happened with Andrew Mitchell, isn’t it?
But just take a look at the Conservative Party’s record, and you’ll see that Stephenson is the exception that proves the rule.
We all know about Mitchell’s comments now – in fact, thanks to some of our renowned national newspapers, we can all read the police officer’s report. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he told the constable 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.
Only last month we heard about the new book Britannia Unchained, by right-wingers Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs. In it, they argue 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”. Britannia Unchained? It seems more likely that they want to chain us to our work-stations!
And what about Philip Davies, the Tory MP who said the disabled should be “allowed” to work for half the minimum wage?
Too many voters were misled by that lie in the run-up to the 2010 election, but then, it’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled (according to Mark Twain). It’s time for us all to admit that there’s no such thing as compassionate Conservatism.
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.
David Cameron cannot sack Andrew Mitchell because, if he does, he’ll have to sack half his party membership.
One would have to be a buffoon of the lowest order to insult a policeman in the same week two officers were killed while protecting the public.
So, inevitably – because the UK is being run by a gang of fools – one has stepped up to the plate and taken his shot: Andrew Mitchell, a former International Development minister, who was made government chief whip earlier this month and clearly let the appointment go to his head.
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 is his description of the policeman as a “pleb”.
It just happens that this word is still in fairly common usage where I live, referring to someone of low status and intelligence who will never amount to much. It’s often used humorously among friends, but I don’t think we can accept Mr Mitchell’s use of it in that way.
He is clearly a man who believes himself to be a breed apart from the common people of the UK – born to rule, and to look down upon everybody over whom he was born to rule.
In other words, he’s an over-ambitious, narcissistic, power-hungry git.
Mitchell has denied the story, but Downing Street has stated that he has apologised “profusely” to the officer. If he’s not guilty, why apologise? I think we can believe the policeman’s version of events.
The Labour Party has called for a full account of the incident, and police representatives have called for Mitchell to resign. I agree with the police. He has to go.
Let’s be clear – I’m not a fan of the police service, certainly not the force in my part of the country (Dyfed-Powys). I think they cover up their mistakes (not uncommon – look at Hillsborough), and I think they can vindictively pursue innocent people who have done nothing illegal (this based on the experience of a personal friend).
However, this happened in the same week that PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were killed in a shotgun and grenade attack in Tameside, responding to reports of a burglary.
There can be no doubt that these officers were genuinely acting to protect the public when they lost their lives. In such circumstances, a high-ranking member of the government insulting a representative of the police in the manner we have heard suggests extremely poor character, disrespect and low breeding.
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