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.

 
Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 54.

    While we're waiting to find out the truth about this intriguing story, may I make a plea to the BBC and all news editors: please make it clear that the Police Federation is a union. Yes, you sometimes mention that it represents 'rank and file' policemen and women, but you rarely use the word union - leaving many unaware that it has a political agenda every bit as manipulative as Bob Crow's mob.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 53.

    Our police force is corrupt, end of story.

    It SEEMS less corrupt than others because they are still able to find genuine "criminals" and put them away.

    But many policemen are themselves criminals. As I have said before on here, the two cops I know personally both deal cocaine. They would also both lie for their own advancement, I am 95% confident.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 52.

    Word just out that the Deputy Chief Whip Randall is up to his neck. Reported intense dislike of 'Thrasher' Mitchell. It may be a case of simple back - stabbing.
    'Big Geordie' Young the Chief Whip obviously has his hands full with the comics in his midst.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 51.

    The Minister acknowledged treating two PC's like plebs, regardless of his actual words, and we know from Hillsborough etc that the Police make things up. I don't think either is in a position to be focussing on loud PR point scoring. Mr Mitchell doth the protest too much, and the Met need to ask why they can't ever complete an investigation without it leaking messily to the press first.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 50.

    who is there lkeft to trust - the BBC? that has been shattered

    the police politicians?

    in fact what about poor old John Terry, I seem to recall now that the reason he was prosecuted was because yet another off duty policeman who wasnt at the incident made a complaint

    justice for JT!

  • rate this
    +46

    Comment number 49.

    Nick,

    It isn't just about the member of the public that just happened to be a policeman, it's about a contemporary police Log that notes a crowd of the public being outside the gates when there weren't any. If the Log is wrong about that what else is it wrong about?
    Have a look next time and see if the log is on a computer or hand written in an exercise book?
    There is far more to come out.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 48.

    It is a measure of the sheer triviality of politics that it matters whether Mitchell said 'pleb' or not, but does not matter that a well-paid public servant swore at police officers... something that if any of us 'ordinary citizens' did would be classed as a public order offence with an appearence before a magistrate to follow.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 47.

    With millions of CCTV cameras in Britain, how come there is hardly any coverage of the main gates to Downing Street? You'd expect to have HD quality, with sound and no blind spots at such a prestigious address.

    Rules are rules, but how petty that the police officer refused to open the main gate, ushering the cyclist through the pedestrian gate. What a pathetic jobsworth, that caused the swearing.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 46.

    #35

    The cop who leaked it apparently did so to his Tory MP, Mitchells deputy.Who seems to have stabeed his boss in the back in double quick time without bothering to check if it was legit or not.

    Shocking huh?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 45.

    Rightly or wrongly he/she probably stopped the whole thing being swept under the carpet.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 44.

    It's PC gone mad!

    Must all be some lefty plot, similar to the McAlpine furore.

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 43.

    The police have not done a very good job of covering this is up, have they ?

    They should have taken advice from the police involved in Hillsborough - they managed to cover that up for 23 years, not a matter of a few weeks.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 42.

    For a minute lets put aside the "Pleb" issue and what was recorded in the Police log. Mitchell admitted that he "did not treat the police with the respect they deserved" and has claimed to have said "You guys are supposed to ******* help us." Police officers shouldn't have to endure verbal abuse from anyone - especially from an MP who should know better.

    No one

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 41.

    Surely the two policemen at the gates must have known there was nobody else there and therefore the supposed report from a member of the public was a fabrication?

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 40.

    @17. Duke of Earl
    Police political? Nothing new in that - look at the way they beat up the miners, dockers, antipolltax, antihunt demonstrators, 'kettle' other protesters, kill innocent by-standers, shoot who they will and lie. They are just like a politician. Besides they are now controlled by politicians (commisioners)

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 39.

    Two questions:

    What DID he say? If he has nothing to hide (he admits to swearing at the police), why won't he give a full account of events?

    As he had a bike, and as bikes are subject the the same rules as other vehicles on our roads, what was the objection to him riding it through the main gates in the first place? Was this incident just a junior officer overreaching himself?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 38.

    Mitchell had done enough without the use of the word "pleb" to be sacked anyway. Unfortunately this will now be used to suggest that Mitchell is a victim that we should all feel sorry for. I thought he corroborated most of what the police reports said?

    I feel then and now justified in not believing what a politician says, the developments simply mean we can't believe police either

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    How long was the gap between the incident happening and the official police logs being written?

    Long enough for a phone call between the on-duty officers and the one who later leaked the story?

    And I wonder if anyone else was involved in that conversation ... a journalist perhaps?

    Anyone fancy nominating a particular newspaper?

  • rate this
    +32

    Comment number 36.

    I have no doubt that Mitchell behaved arrogantly, but the issue that removed him from office was the e-mail received by the deputy chief whip. that is now found to be a fabrication. simple justice says Mitchell should be allowed his job back. more serious though is the idea that we can't trust the police to act with integrity. All this and Hillsborough too!
    Hmmmm.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    Would be v interesting if Labour was involved - who was the police officer's MP? Did that MP play a role in leaking it to the press?

 

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