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 Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    There seems to be a story that has been overlooked. As I understand it the country is still in a high state of security alert. The gates on Downing Street were installed as a security measure. A Cabinet Minister arrogantly demands that the main gate should be opened simply to allow him to wheel his bicycle out. Surely that is the sackable offence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The arrest of the police officer/alledged member of the public has been criticised by the Police Federation who said it appeared disproportionate.

    Says it all really

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The fuss about the policeman who reported is important, however we should not distract from some clear facts: Mr Mitchell was abusive to a police officer carrying out his duties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    "they say that they will investigate conspiracy if any evidence emerges."

    Let's hope that the Met do better than Deputy Commissioner John Yates did in his "investigation" !? into phone hacking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    @42 "Police officers shouldn't have to endure verbal abuse from anyone especially from an MP who should know better."
    Agree. But the police shouldn't then fabricate evidence against that person. Either arrest them or let it be. If we have officers fabricating evidence and then leaking lies to the press then that undermines evidence they have given in the past.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    " A very British Coup" !

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Why on earth would anyone get really really upset, children apart, about being called a 'pleb'? When I went to Royal Hospital School the word pleb was common currency in school jargon. It's no different from 'muppet' or 'wally'. Evidently some coppers are just plain childish! Moerover, why would their 'reps' want to make such a ballyhoo about it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    So it's the word of a few policemen (who seem to have been optimistic with the truth as regards the shocked witnesses) versus Mitchell who corroborates the swearing but not the word 'pleb'?

    I look forward to seeing them all in the queue at the Job Centre. How likely is that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    The simple lesson here is: "Don't swear at a policeman". We have a sort of free speech in this country. It's certainly better than in North Korea. But in no sense is it free. If you swear at a policeman, expect trouble, and rightly so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    So the threat of a police state steps ever nearer

    The police decide who becomes or dosnt become a government minsiter, upset them and you get fitted up and hounded out of a job

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Following Hillsborough another reason to doubt a police statement.

    The No. 10 CCTV footage is pretty damning, there is no sign of "several members of the public" who witnessed Mr Mitchell's outburst.

    I admit I jumped on the hate train re Mitchell. Perhaps he was just working late, stressed out and had a hissy fit? If the police are guilty of fabricating evidence they should be knicked, pronto!

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Strange that the timeline for the 'incident' shows as 19:36 when Mitchell is wheeling his bike out of the gate but, apparently 19:59 on the CCTV image from the Foreign Office camera. A lot can happen in 23 minutes. And why did it take so long for the CCTV pictures to be released?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    That police lie, fabricate 'evidence' and then make a complete horlicks of covering it up should not be too much of a shock... We have in this country experienced countless instances of this,,,, however,, Mitchell acted like a pleb which is not appropriate for a person in his position and had he been a general member of the public, would have been arrested.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Many years ago, when I was a student, I was TWICE "fitted up" by police who fabricated evidence in order to try and secure a conviction, one for arson, and one for burglary. Extremely serious charges, which could have ruined my life forever, and of which I was completely innocent. Thanks to a good lawyer, I escaped both. The police have always been like this, and this is why few people trust them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Always seemed fishy to me, the plod version, and therefore I'm not as surprised as I ought to be by this.

    Let's see where it goes, could be there are mitigating factors for the policemen involved, but right now it looks like they've behaved at the very least like utter plebs, and possibly worse than that.

    And Mitchell? Unlucky. Clearly stitched up. But I guess we can struggle on without him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Then I suggest you take the evidence you have to a straight copper! And 95% confidance isn't enough to prosecute, just so you know.

    Amazingly I've never been "fitted up" or dealt with a "self rightous" "jobsworth" police officer, but then hey, I'm a law abiding chap!

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    At the time I had very little sympathy for Mitchell,found his denials unconvincing and was glad when he resigned.
    While it can't be ignored that he DID swear at a police officer, something far more underhand may have gone on to remove him from office.
    I,for one,do not like corruption anywhere and do not appreciate being misled. A thorough investigation must now take place with appropriate action.

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