Why the Andrew Mitchell 'plebgate' story matters


What began as a story about what was really said became a story about who leaked a police log but it is now much more serious than that.

The Metropolitan Police say they are investigating allegations against a serving police officer of fabricating evidence against someone who was, at the time, a cabinet minister. What's more, they say that they will investigate conspiracy if any evidence emerges.

We now know that no member of the public corroborated the police version of what Andrew Mitchell said. Contrary to what is stated in the police log leaked to the press, the CCTV shown on Channel 4 last night suggests that no-one was there to hear what was said.

What is more, we know that an email which purported to come from a member of the public in fact came from a serving police officer who was not on duty or even present in Downing Street at the time.

The email was sent before any account of what happened reached the media and yet is remarkably similar to the police log both in the events it describes and the phrases it alleges Mr Mitchell used.

Hold on, some will say, the two officers who reported what Mr Mitchell said are both still sticking to their story and their boss, the head of the Metropolitan Police, insists he's seen nothing which challenges their story.

That, though, does not answer the questions which the Met has now admitted are "extremely serious" and the subject of "a thorough and well resourced investigation" :

  • Why did the email get written?
  • How did the officer who wrote it know what was in the police log?
  • Did he talk to the officers involved, to their superiors or to the Police Federation?

There are many who, I know, are sick of the story of "plebgate" or who long ago took the view that, whatever words Andrew Mitchell actually used, the minister behaved in a way that no member of the public would get away with.

The reason I believe it matters is that this row is now about the power of politicians, the police and the press - the issues which, you may recall, triggered the Leveson inquiry.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Isn't it strange that when the matter concerned Mitchell's innocence or guilt the Tories did everything to avoid an inquiry. Now it's the police's role in question, thet are now calling for one. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    If I understand the story correctly:

    Cabinet minister swears, possibly not even at the PC, but definitely about the PC. If at the PC, then minister being fired maybe extreme but still justifiable, if simply about the PC then sacking not justified.

    The question for the police is whether this is an isolated officer deciding to "help out", whether it is wider than that and why it was done

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Welcome to naffgate where trivia can be used to obscure discussion about the real problems facing the country

    As though a politican has never been coarse or a member of the police questionable

    If the question is can this happen to a minister what do you think can happen to members of the public. The only reason this is in the news is because it is Downing St

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    When it was revealed at the time that Mitchell had regularly used the main gate for weeks previously only for the police that night to order him off the bike telling him to use a side gate, its was obvious somnething wasnt quite right

    Seems they may well have been looking for a confrontation - pretty scandalous really

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Some simple questions
    1 - Why did Mitchell never request the police log was made public?
    2 - Why was the CCTV not released till now?

    People should remember that origonally Mitchell denied the whole thing, it was only through the alleged actions of this 3rd officer that even his version of events came to light.

    Had he fessed up straight away there would be no need for any of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    So David Davies the crusader against CCTV, on the grounds it infringes human rights, cites CCTV evidence to support Andrew Mitchell. Is that hypocrisy? Will he now apologise for seeking to deny us "plebs" the protection and evidence that CCTV can provide? Will there be an investigation into who leaked this high security video?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    There's does seem to be a lot of spin on this, the CCTV shows...

    1 Mitchell spent some 44 seconds with one or more policemen

    2 The Foreign Office CCTV time is blanked out, ie: suspicious

    Mitchell refused at the outset to say what he did say for days despite repeated requests, ie: he apparently had something to hide

    I wouldn't believe a word on this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Criminal charges please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    As I remember saying (on this forum) at the time... Politicians are known to lie. Police are known to lie. It was always going to be near impossible to know who was telling lies this time without analysing cctv footage.
    It seems that belatedly someone has done just that.
    It turns out this time the police were lying. Frankly the country would be no worse off if ALL the police were sacked

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Sounds like the HMG PR machine has fired up again. There must be some more nasty news on the horizon that this story can mask. This latest development is tantamount to blaming your postman for delivering bills.

    Why has not Mitchell still stated what he said at the time, and just admit that he was wrong? Oh. Silly me. He's a politician, of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Who would have thought it?

    The police are accused of fabricating evidence and passing it onto journalists who then report it as the truth.

    Haven't we been here before?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    One of the maddening thing about this story was that the backlash against Mitchell was based on the idea of "you have to trust the official police logs"

    Yet, at the very same time, we were being told of how hundreds of police logs had been fabricated at Hilsborough.

    I notice that The Sun is today desperately trying to spin the story back against Mitchell.

    Everything but the truth, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Mitchell admitted using foul language against the police, who were merely doing their job, and should have resigned for that, or been sacked by Cameron.

    If his version of events proves to be true, I still see no reason for him to be re-instated in a new role.

    I would like to see some retraction from Miliband and his chums, who pilloried Mitchell out of office and have made much of the term pleb

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The spirit of Hillsborough lives on

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    OK, so Andrew Mitchell did not use the word 'pleb', but have we missed something? It is my recollection that he admitted swearing at the officers concerned, and behaving badly in doing so.

    Is that not enough for a resignation? Sure investigate, but reinstate him? Just give us one reason!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Isn't this just another case of our tarnished society where those who seek power (be it politicians, the police, judiciary etc) too often focus on spiteful attacks on others and inflating their own pathetic egos rather than on serving society? Nick Robinson and many of his colleagues take delight in this childish behaviour rather than highlighting real issues. Shame on all of you!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    David Davies intervention on Today was simply another instalment in his get Cameron campaign. He has also signed the letter opposing Gay marriage. Under questioning he was shown not to have thought the issue through (e.g. why no one looked at the CCTV footage until recently). The spoof email begs questions but in itself does not invalidate the original log - would have been seen by many in the Met

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Ah, so the police have become political! It would be very interesting to see where this ends up.
    Regardless on the officer's feelings on the government or Mitchell in particular, it's not the done thing to incriminate a SERVING and ELECTED cabinet minister! Allegedly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    This seems like the police had an agenda here. Like all unions i wonder if this officer was the shop floor for the police federation, which we know don't like being told to cut budgets and sore this little arguement as a way of flexing its mussles and now it has backed fired. Thank you C4 for getting to the bottom of this.... there is going to some compensation from the media over this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The Chairman & Secretary of the West Midlands Police Federation who hounded Andrew Mitchell out of Office should hang their heads in shame. They should now follow his example and resign. After all they were being payed by the tax payer (they are police officers) whilst protesting in duty time about Mr Mitchell. The Home secretary needs to look how Federation Officials are funded.


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