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
    +3

    Comment number 94.

    if there was a conspiracy,,, why the word pleb? what about know your place? and it's not you who run the parlement?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 93.

    Mitchel initialy denied swearing at the officer now admits it,

    it appears the police have invented an eyewitness to the incident.

    Pot Kettle?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 92.

    The old etonians and their Corporate paymasters are now trying to create the Truth... What the Leverson inquiry taught us is that there is a group of people in this country who live above the law. Members of the executive, civil service police, judiciary, banks, media and corporations all committing treason by way of Greed. Look at the the HMRC whistle blower in the goldman sachs episode?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 91.

    There is clearly far more to this than meets the eye here. I smell spin and lots of it and the public will only see a fraction of the truth. What we will do though is pay hundreds of thousands of pounds by the time we've had an enquiry, paid a foul mouthed "exonerated" bully compensation and dealt with the threats of police strikes that will doubtless come as a result of it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 90.

    There are hundreds of Councillors and MPs of all Parties and none doing their best to try and serve their communities. There are thousands of Police Officers facing difficult situations every day. Please let's not tar the majority with the minority.

    We need a way in this country to address these issues independent of Politicians, the Police, Bankers, CEOs, and others. Are we a Democracy or not?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 89.

    Having met Mr Mitchell when he was my MP, I can confirm that he comes across as arrogant & disinterested in his constituents (as most MPs who care only about Westminster & not about their constituency are). Despite this, I can only sympathise if he has been 'stitched up' by policemen fabricating evidence. He was clearly in the wrong that night but 2 wrongs don't make a right.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 88.

    When I was a lad you had to get your passport photo countersigned as a good likeness by a "pillar of society" i.e. a doctor, mp, policeman, bank manager etc etc

    Good job you don't have to do it now. Who would you ask?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 87.

    There are many people who have lost their jobs thanks to spectacular levels of incompetence from the CRB. What restitution do they get ? We should offer the same to Mr Mitchell. In fact I can do it here. Sorry mate, now deal with it.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 86.

    I think the Minister was entitled to be miffed at the failure of the policeman to show him proper respect. It can't be that difficult to recognise a Minister of the Crown, especially if your a trained cop and it is your job. But the deliberate misuse of police powers to politically undermine the Minister is an act of treason against the state. We need honest police, without political bias.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 85.

    Mitchell, by his own admission, swore at police officers. If you or I did that, we would be arrested. As such, Mitchell must NOT get his job back, regardless of whether or not he said "pleb".

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 84.

    @Mike s - 'dont swear at a policeman'

    he didnt - he said 'I thought you guys were supposed to ****** help us'

    to me thats just use of an expletive during conversation, if he had said

    'you *****s are supposed to help us'

    THAT would have been swearing AT a policeman - got it?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 83.

    This isn't going to win the police any friends. It's also not going to win the ConDems any votes from the police either.

    The omnishambles shambles on...

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 82.

    54 Jeremy Lee.

    Well said. This whole episode is extremely sinister. Anyone with the slightest political instinct or who has any experience in industrial relations can see where this conspiracy is likely to have originated.

    Those who doubted that the police service needs massive reform can probably now see how vital those reforms are if we are to preserve parliamentary democracy.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 81.

    The police who have clearly lied should lose their jobs, simple. Andrew Mitchell was right to resign and should not be reinstated. Of course, perhaps a simple apology, a promise not to lie or fabricate evidence in future and an anger management course for AM can see all parties move on from this sorry sorry episode ?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 80.

    Nick, Like many of your colleagues in Westminster you have got too close to the story. In the real world normal people like me are battling to keep our business' afloat, pay our bills and make sure our children are clothed and fed. This is a sideshow and not important, as you would suggest.

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 78.

    Personally, I never thought the word pleb was that bad.

    Using the F word was, in my opinion far worse. Mitchell admits he used this word.

    Many a protestor has had there collar felt for using such words at police officers.

    Mitchell, as a government minister should be ashamed of using the F word at police and it the use of these words that should have done for him.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 77.

    This is quite entertaining. The government should be careful if it wishes for an enquiry - more could come to light than they may want. Also, it keeps 'plebgate' firmly in the mind of the public. The 'pleby' damage is done, they should quietly bury the matter and hope other events take its place. However, apart from being economically inept, they are also politically stupid.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 76.

    This is going to get very messy.

    If I were one of the cast of thousands who gleefully hung Mitchell out to dry, I'd be considering getting my apology in early.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 75.

    I think the Tories need to do some soul searching. Just why is it that they have become so hated by public servants ?

 

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