Eric Pickles on Andrew Mitchell 'pleb' comments

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The communities secretary claimed he was "very proud to be a pleb" but he had never heard the chief whip use such words.

Eric Pickles said he was not "defending in any way" the "ungentlemanly and ungallant language" allegedly used by Andrew Mitchell, which has been in the headlines for severeal days.

He added: "I don't believe somebody should lose public office merely because they used inappropriate words "and displayed a bad temper."

The prime minister has welcomed Mr Mitchell's apology for remarks to police who made him get off his bicycle as he left Downing Street, but the chief whip has denied calling officers "plebs".

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