Andrew Mitchell resigns over police comments row

 
Andrew Mitchell Mr Mitchell has been under pressure over the remarks for weeks

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Andrew Mitchell has quit as government chief whip after weeks of pressure over an argument with police officers in Downing Street.

The Tory MP has admitted swearing at officers in the incident but again denied calling police "plebs".

He told David Cameron - who has stood by him - that "damaging publicity" meant he could no longer do his job.

Former Commons leader Sir George Young will be the new chief whip, Downing Street said.

Mr Mitchell's resignation is a victory for the Police Federation and Labour who have led calls for him to go.

But it spells the end of a 25-year political career for the Sutton Coldfield MP, who was promoted from international development secretary to chief whip in September's cabinet reshuffle.

BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson said Mr Mitchell told the prime minister about his decision in person, at Mr Cameron's country residence Chequers.

The prime minister has accepted his resignation.

'Learn your place'

In his resignation letter, Mr Mitchell says "it has become clear to me that whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter I will not be able to fulfil my duties as we both would wish.

Start Quote

This is a serious setback for David Cameron as he held onto Mr Mitchell instead of sacking him straight after his angry clash”

End Quote

"Nor is it fair to continue to put my family and colleagues through this upsetting and damaging publicity".

He repeats his "categorical assurance" that he did not call police officers "plebs" - as alleged in the police report on the incident.

But he adds: "The offending comment and the reason for my apology to the police was my parting remark 'I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us'.

"It was obviously wrong of me to use such bad language and I am very sorry about it and grateful to the police officer for accepting my apology."

Mr Mitchell - whose job was to maintain discipline on the Conservative benches - was thrust into the spotlight when The Sun accused him in a front page story of calling police "plebs".

His outburst came after armed police stopped him from cycling through the main Downing Street gate, instead directing him to the smaller pedestrian gate.

He is reported to have used foul language and told the officer at the gates to "learn your place" and "you don't run this government".

'Complete denial'

The officer concerned reported the incident to his superiors and the official police log, which appeared to contradict Mr Mitchell's story, was later leaked to the media.

Start Quote

David Cameron is left looking profoundly weak and totally out of touch”

End Quote Michael Dugher Shadow Cabinet Office Minister

Mr Mitchell came under intense pressure from the Police Federation - which represents rank-and-file officers - and which refused to accept his version of events.

The MP stayed away from the Conservative Party conference in an attempt to defuse the row, but despite the support of backbench Tory MPs it became clear when Parliament returned from recess on Monday that it was not going to go away.

Mr Mitchell's fate is believed to have been sealed on Wednesday, when deputy chief whip John Randall reportedly had to be talked out of quitting in protest at his determination to cling on, following a stormy prime minister's question time.

In his letter of reply to Mr Mitchell, Mr Cameron said he "understood" why Mr Mitchell was resigning, adding: "I regret this has become necessary."

Shadow cabinet office minister Michael Dugher, for Labour, said: "After weeks in complete denial, Andrew Mitchell has finally bowed to public pressure.

"What people will want to know is why, when the entire country could see that what Mr Mitchell did was wrong, the prime minister totally failed to act.

"David Cameron is left looking profoundly weak and totally out of touch, doing everything he could to hold on to Mr Mitchell only for his chief whip to bow to the inevitable given the understandable public anger."

'Honesty and integrity'

Nick Robinson said the fight had gone out of Mr Mitchell, who was considered to be a fighter and a former soldier who loved political scrapping.

Our correspondent said he had fallen victim to the persistence of the Labour Party - "who portrayed him as all that was worst about the government, symbolising one rule for those at the top and one for everyone else" - and the Police Federation who were fighting the government over cuts and reform.

Start Quote

Somebody lost his temper. Frankly, big deal. All sorts of people lose their temper in their daily lives, it's part of human nature”

End Quote Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative MP

"In the end he fell victim to his past behaviour, with too few people prepared to defend him, the tough guy paid for just being too tough", he added.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: "It is not good to see anyone fall from public office but the decision by the prime minister to accept Andrew Mitchell's resignation seemed almost inevitable.

"Andrew Mitchell has apologised to our Metropolitan Police colleague and our colleague has accepted the apology. We hope this matter is now closed."

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the incident had been "hugely exaggerated".

"Somebody lost his temper. Frankly, big deal. All sorts of people lose their temper in their daily lives, it's part of human nature. To blow this up into a resignation issue has been rather unfortunate and actually trivialises politics when there are many important things going on," he told BBC's Newsnight.

Mr Mitchell told our correspondent he will seek to deliver a personal resignation statement in the Commons early next week.

The new chief whip, Sir George Young, was thought to have retired to the backbenches after giving up his position as leader of the House of Commons in September's reshuffle.

The Tory grandee, who went to Eton and became an MP in 1974, had held the post since 2010, but was replaced by former health secretary, Andrew Lansley.

Sir George has some experience of the government whips office, serving there in 1990 and also acting as an opposition whip under Margaret Thatcher before she became prime minister in 1979.

During the 1980s and 1990s, he held a range of ministerial positions, including transport secretary in 1995.

 

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    15:07: Straw before MPs
    Jack Straw

    They have more than 75 years combined parliamentary experience between them so Sir George Young and Jack Straw should know everything there is to know about Commons procedure. The veteran Conservative and Labour MPs' knowledge will be put to the test when the two men - who are both former leaders of the Commons - appear before the Commons procedure committee in a session starting about 15:00. The session should have an added edge to it given Mr Straw's recent suspension from the Labour Party over "cash for access" allegations - which are now being investigated by the parliamentary watchdog.

     
  54.  
    14:52: Paul Waugh, editor of Politicshome

    tweets: TweetOfTheDay RT @Kevin_Maguire: Geriatric John: RT @BuzzFeedUKPol Shocking news about Sir Menzies Campbell

    Menzies Campbell
     
  55.  
    14:40: Defence budget warning
    RAF Tornado GR4 in Afghanistan in November 2014

    The UK's defence chiefs should be prepared to resign en masse if the next government tries to impose any further cuts on the armed forces, a former head of the RAF has warned.

    Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon said the current service chiefs could face a "very, very difficult decision" if they are confronted with the prospect of further cutbacks after the general election in May.

    He was speaking at a meeting of the UK National Defence Association (UNDA) campaign group, at which he also warned military chiefs could not carry on pretending they had the resources they needed.

     
  56.  
    14:35: Immigration vs everything else
    Issues index

    Nigel Farage's speech on immigration, one of UKIP's biggest campaigning issues, and Ed Miliband's attack on David Cameron over the issue in PMQs have got pundits asking how important the debate about net migration actually is to the election campaign. Yesterday's updated "issues index" from polling firm Ipsos Mori suggests it is an important issue for voters but not the most important.

     
  57.  
    14:32: Tory MP faces expenses payback
    Bob Blackman MP

    Conservative backbencher Bob Blackman faces repaying more than £1,000 after losing an appeal against an inquiry that found he claimed mileage expenses for up to five times the real distance. An investigation by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) watchdog found last month that the Harrow East MP made more than 700 claims for travel around his constituency that were either "inaccurate" or not allowed under the rules. Mr Blackman refused to accept the findings, insisting he would hand back£237 for journeys to party political engagements and from his home to his office. Ipsa has said today it is standing by its original ruling.

     
  58.  
    14:25: Online voting
    Mobile phone

    Online voting could boost youth voter turnout from 44% in 2010 to as high as 70%, a report out today claims. The idea is being pushed by parliamentarians after the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy voiced its support for pilots in time for a 2020 rollout. Industry figures have suggested this is unlikely, but that isn't stopping WebRoots Democracy from making the case for online voting. "The UK is a politically active nation online, and we need to translate this passion to voting: the bedrock of our democracy," founder Areeq Chowdhury says. "Analogue methods of politics will increasingly become incompatible with the digital world of today."

     
  59.  
    14:18: Green team

    Back to Mumsnet, where Natalie Bennett is asked who's actually in charge of the Green Party. Is it true, she's asked, that she could share responsibility for the TV election debates - if they happen - with Caroline Lucas, her predecessor and the party's only MP?

    Ms Bennett answers thus: "The Green Party leadership is a team - that's something we've always made clear, and one of the things that is different about the Green Party. So we - and I - are perfectly comfortable with different people representing us in different forums, indeed we like to be able to share opportunities around.

    "That helps make it clear that unlike another party I think you could identify, we're not a one-man band!

    "Sometimes you might see me on the TV, sometimes Jenny Jones as our member of the House of Lords, sometimes Caroline, and sometimes one of our brilliant Young Green candidates."

     
  60.  
    14:12: Trident debate
    Trident submarine

    David Cameron was quick to turn Tory backbencher Liam Fox's question about Trident on Labour, amid fears from some that the SNP could insist on moving Britain's nuclear deterrent away from Scotland in coalition talks. "People don't want to see a grubby deal between the people who want to break up Britain and the people who want to bankrupt Britain," the prime minister said. The issue was highlighted by CND canvassing results published yesterday which suggested that three-quarters of Labour's parliamentary candidates would vote against Trident replacement.

     
  61.  
    @stefanstern Stefan Stern, columnist

    tweets: @IanDunt Yes, but Dave is still on the hook because of all those quotes he gave last time about how marvellous and essential they are.

     
  62.  
    @IanDunt Ian Dunt, editor of Politics.co.uk

    tweets: If Brown held out against TV debates, the media reaction would have been much more severe than it has been against Cameron.

     
  63.  
    @robindbrant Robin Brant, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: understand the migration policy fully unveiled by #ukip today has been the product of 7 months work

     
  64.  
    13:57: Public opinion on drugs
    Nick Clegg and Richard Branson

    Nick Clegg says the public's opinion on the idea of drugs reform is "more subtle and smarter" than the media believe.

     
  65.  
    @AlexStevensKent Alex Stevens, professor in Criminal Justice at the University of Kent

    tweets: I asked Clegg what UK decrim' would look like. A. We can work that out, and it would be cheaper than current system #CHEvents

     
  66.  
    PMQs Andy Crockett., Politics Live reader

    Wouldn't it be nice and a refreshing change if at PMQ's, the prime minister actually answered a question put to him? No invented question, no refusing to answer, no head in the sand, no evasion, just answer the question asked.

     
  67.  
    @JohnRentoul John Rentoul, columnist at the Independent on Sunday

    tweets: David Cameron embarrassed himself by refusing even to pretend to answer either of EdM's questions #PMQs

     
  68.  
    PMQs Eddie Jonas, Politics Live reader

    Don't you love the way carefully chosen and worded statistics are used by the PM? "Police funding has been reduced however the PERCENTAGE of front line staff has gone up!"

     
  69.  
    13:41: Green party leader on Mumsnet

    Natalie Bennett continues her redemption after last week's slew of criticism by appearing on a Mumsnet online Q&A session. So far, we've learned that the Greens would support the Labour Party on a confidence and supply basis in the event of a hung parliament, that they'd never form a coalition with the Tories, and that Ms Bennett's favourite biscuits are macaroons.

     
  70.  
    @mattholehouse Matthew Holehouse, political correspondent, Daily Telegraph

    tweets: Nick Clegg says many Tory MPs back him on drug reform, but we will have to find them ourselves

     
  71.  
    13:38: Immigration BBC Radio 4

    Is it time for the Conservatives to have a rethink on immigration? Eric Pickles says not. He tells The World at One it's a good thing to have a target of tens of thousands and there's no suggestion the Conservative Party is pulling back from its promise. Would he like to see it as a manifesto pledge this time around? The communities secretary says he's sure that "a number of policies" will be in the manifesto.

     
  72.  
    13:35: Office invasion

    While Nick Clegg is speaking in London, it appears some disgruntled students have invaded his Sheffield office. More details here in the Sheffield Star.

     
  73.  
    13:29: 'Reform not a taboo'

    Nick Clegg is pretty clear who he blames for inaction on the issue of drugs. "I'm incredibly frustrated that, after five years in coalition, we cannot take our work to its logical conclusion - just because the Tories are scared of being branded soft on drugs," he says. "It's time for the Conservatives and Labour to realise that the world has moved on, reform is no longer a taboo subject and voters expect politicians to deliver results based on solid evidence, not overblown rhetoric."

     
  74.  
    @BBCWorldatOne World at One

    tweets: @EricPickles: "This country was virtually bust when the coalition came in" #wato

     
  75.  
    @CH_Events Chatham House Events

    tweets: UK is way behind the curve - Portugal, Switzerland, US have all shown there is a better way to deal with #DrugPolicy - @DPMoffice #CHEvents

     
  76.  
    13:25: Living standards BBC Radio 4

    Labour's shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint says for the first time we will be going into a general election with most people receiving a lower wage than at the last election.

    Lib Dem Employment Minister Jo Swinson says there is also a skills gap, which the government is trying to plug. Only 7% of engineers are women, for example, she says, and that is something they're trying to fix.

    Meanwhile, Conservative Communities Secretary Eric Pickles tells the World at One that living standards for those of working age will move past their 2010 peak at the end of this year... but only if we "stick to our long-term economic plan".

     
  77.  
    @TransformDrugs Transform Drug Policy Foundation

    tweets: Richard Branson mentioned drug decriminalisation in Portugal. Find out more here

     
  78.  
    @DPMoffice Deputy PM, Nick Clegg

    tweets: Nick Clegg: The time for change has come; we need to implement evidence-based #DrugPolicy that works @RichardBranson

    Nick Clegg and Richard Branson at drugs event
     
  79.  
    13:18: Lending woes BBC Radio 4

    Steve Brittan, chief executive of company BSA Machine Tools, says it's all well and good telling businesses they need to invest, but without banks willing to lend them money to do so it's impossible for them to compete against their rivals, let alone expand their businesses.

     
  80.  
    13:17: All in it together BBC Radio 4

    "It's not just for government to solve this problem however," Mr Beatson says. There are things that only government can do, invest in infrastructure, for example and regulating industry. But it's also about businesses making investment. Productivity isn't about how hard you work it's about the return you get on your investment, he adds

     
  81.  
    13:15: Productivity worries BBC Radio 4

    The IFS report on living standards remains one of the big stories of the day. On The World at One, Mark Beatson, chief economist at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), says lower productivity has been a nagging concern since 1998, but we're now in an unprecedented world where productivity is lower than it was in 2008 despite the economic recovery.

     
  82.  
    13:10: Clegg drugs speech

    Nick Clegg is now giving his speech on drugs that we've been trailing this morning. "If you are anti-drugs you should be pro-reform," he tells the audience in London.

     
  83.  
    13:06: IFS report James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    The Conservatives' great fear in this election is that they will experience a voteless recovery - all the stats say it's getting better but people don't feel that on the ground - and wont show it at the ballot box. They hope the IFS report will help convince the public that things really are improving.

     
  84.  
    13:00: Lunchtime recap:
    • Ed Miliband attacks David Cameron over his record on immigration at PMQs - the latter lists his other achievements in office, but admits that immigration from within the EU has risen.
    • The Labour leader also asks the PM to say if he will take part in a head-to-head TV election debate. Mr Cameron says "we're having a debate now" and in terms of the TV events, he wants to "get on with the debates before the election campaign"
    • Nigel Farage has given a big speech outlining his desire to return immigration to "normal" levels, with between 20,000 and 50,000 migrants given work permits each year.
    • But the UKIP leader has spent much of the morning insisting he hasn't performed a U-turn on the issue of whether he's setting a formal immigration cap. His spokesman Steven Woolfe said last week he wanted a cap of 50,000, but Mr Farage says he - and the public - have "had enough of caps and targets".
    • Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell has paid £80,000 in damages to Pc Toby Rowland, the office at the centre of the plebgate row
    • The Liberal Democrats' manifesto will include a pledge to hand drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health, Nick Clegg is to say.
     
  85.  
    12:56: Migration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Labour's Hilary Benn says it was unwise of the prime minister to make the promise on net migration, and criticises Ms Perry for trying to "blame everyone else". Asked what Labour's plan is, he says the party would have a "fair" immigration policy that requires migrants to the UK to contribute. "That's what we're doing," Ms Perry intervenes.

     
  86.  
    12:55: Jobs factory Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Over to the MPs panel now, and transport minister Claire Perry concedes that the government had not met the target. But she says that no-one could have predicted the UK would become the "jobs factory of Europe", which is why migration to the UK has increased, she adds. Ms Perry stresses the government's "commitment" to bringing down immigration.

     
  87.  
    12:51: Miliband's tactics Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    The Guardian's Nick Watt predicts that Ed Miliband will not want to define his election campaign on immigration, but rather on the cost of living. "But for today's purposes he felt he had a clear way of getting a clear win on immigration, and clearly the prime minister was uneasy," he adds.

     
  88.  
    12:49: PMQs analysis Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Let's go back to the Daily Politics for a moment, where we're getting some reaction to PMQs. Guardian commentator Nick Watt says the PM clearly knew what was coming on immigration. He knew that Ed Miliband would mention David Cameron's pre-election "contract with Britain", and so had a copy to hand to reel off commitments that had been met, he added.

     
  89.  
    12:44: Coming up in the Commons House of Commons Parliament

    That brings an end to this week's Prime Minister's Questions and in a short while MPs will turn their attention to the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill, which is going through its final stages in the Commons.

     
  90.  
    12:40: Hospital failures

    Labour MP John Woodcock raised a question, before the session ended, on Furness General Hospital, after an investigation rules that a "lethal mix" of failures led to the unnecessary deaths of 11 babies and one mother. David Cameron says it is a "very important report", adding that the government wanted to see many of its recommendations implemented. Where there are problems in the NHS it is important not to sweep them under the carpet but be open and honest about them, he says, adding that his heart goes out to all those whose children died at the hospital.

     
  91.  
    12:39: Pic: Cameron, Clegg and Hague
    David Cameron, Nick Clegg and William Hague
     
  92.  
    12:35: Energy prices

    Labour MP Iain Mckenzie's attempt to attack David Cameron over the government's energy reforms backfires slightly, as the PM uses it as an opportunity to go on an attack of his own, by making fun of Labour's "price freeze" which he said would increase consumers' bills as energy costs have fallen.

     
  93.  
    12:33: Nursery first aid

    Lib Dem MP Mark Hunter asks the prime minister if he supports a campaign to ensure that all nursery staff are qualified in paediatric first aid, and if so, if he will seek to hurry up a government review on the matter. David Cameron says it makes sense for as many people as possible to have that sort of training, and promises to speak to the relevant minister in charge of the review.

     
  94.  
    12:32: Child protection

    Labour MP Meg Munn says it is time to make child protection "much more central" within the Ofsted process and ensure every school is inspected on this area regularly, even if they are rated "outstanding". David Cameron says he will look carefully at her suggestion.

     
  95.  
    @EmilyThornberry Emily Thornberry, Labour MP

    tweets: Cameron refuses to rule out putting up tuition fees if re-elected #pmqs

     
  96.  
    12:30: Tuition fees

    Seema Malhotra, a Labour MP, uses her question to ask the PM to rule out increasing tuition fees any further. David Cameron says universities are now better funded, with the number of students having increased, including from poorer backgrounds. Labour has taken four years to work out its own "useless" policy, which hits universities and helps rich students rather than poor ones. It represents the "chaos" that a Labour government would bring, he adds.

     
  97.  
    @CLeslieMP Charlotte Leslie, Tory MP

    tweets: In #PMQs. Never seen anyone look so upset that youth unemployment's gone down as the people opposite me.Just Wow.Election time IS here. :-(

     
  98.  
    12:29: Pic: All eyes on the PM
    David Cameron
     
  99.  
    12:27: Long term plan

    A question from Conservative MP Guy Opperman provides David Cameron with a rather helpful opportunity to set out his "long-term economic plan" for the north east. He goes on to list of what he says are the government's economic achievements.

     
  100.  
    12:26: Minimum wage

    Labour MP Julie Elliot criticises the government over what she sees as its failure on the national minimum wage, which prompts David Cameron to defend his record in this area, citing steps taken to enhance enforcement of the law.

     

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