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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  • Comment number 194.

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

  • Comment number 193.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 192.

    Is it just me or are the CCTV extracts shown on Newsnight different times. 1st one shows Mitchell with Bike and there are CLEARLY other people OUTSIDE of the gates as the police officers asserted. On the second clip from an angle outside the gate the time for the CCTV system is obscured and there is no sign of Mitchell actually leaving the side gate so it could be taken from and earlier/later time

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 191.

    police fabricated evidence - the media used it to campaign to have a government removed - this is tantamont to a coup

    banana republic style behaviour

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 190.

    I am begining to form an unfortunate view like Oscar Wilde, about our police after Tomlinson, Mendes and Hillsborough. I am sure as a pleb my view is incorrect but the police seem to be more interested in their own budget than the rest of their society. Imagine if this were to happen in a foreign field, does look a bit similar to Los Angeles in some ways.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 189.

    I am surprised that anyone is seriously suggesting that the statement "I thought you were meant to xxxxxxx help us" constitutes grounds for arrest, whoever made it. Its not an attack on the authority or the instruction but an aside. The use of that word by police is not unknown, should they also be arrested on each occasion ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 188.

    Clearly it matters because a BBC journalist has tagged "gate" onto the mildly offensive word "pleb" to enhance its importance.

    He also say the "f-word". Isn't that more offensive? In fact, it clearly is more offensive because the BBC won't publish it in this forum. Why is that ignored?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 187.

    An honorable man was forced to resign after a campaign of vilification by the media and the Labour party based on evidence that had been concocted by a police force that thought they were above criticism.

  • rate this
    +33

    Comment number 186.

    2 points. You are allowed to cycle on the road so why not through the gate?
    Anyone who has had dealings with the police know they are not what Labour and the Police Fed are saying they are. A difficult job certainly, but that doesn't excuse arrogance, collusion & incompetence.
    I know people who have had dealings with the police, & I don't trust them. it's a shame.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 185.

    Of equal concern to me as the police lying, is their apparent lack of any sense.... I mean saying witnesses were 'shocked' when there weren't any passers by, is one thing - forgetting that lack of said witness/passers by would be demonstrated on CCTV is, er well, a bit daft.

    Now if they had just said, 'passer by fainted to the ground with shock..' then we would all be none the wiser....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 184.

    to 163 - Openside 50
    "chloe smith looking very fit in her leather jacket on PMQ's now!"

    What has that got to do with anything?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 183.

    Don't see why this makes much difference. The one thing you do not do as a politician is hurl abuse as serving police officers doing their job to implement the laws your government made. And Mitchell has already admitted to that.

    The only question is whether he used the word "pleb". I honestly don't think that makes much difference.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 182.

    As a non Tory I have said that Andrew Mitchell was the best Overseas development minister we have had, demanding accountabiliity and value for money for all investments.
    If he has been "stitched up" this is worrying as it shows the Police can't be trusted, if it is just one person that is different
    If he swore at the police he should have been charged whether or not he used "plebs"

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 181.

    I am sure Cameron is plotting to give Mitchell his job back. He doesn't deserve his job back - he swore at a police officer. What kind of example does that set ? Us plebs aren't allowed to swear at the police.

    Double standards and hypocrisy from Dave once again.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 180.

    Whatever was said or not said - you cannot have the organisation responsible for upholding the law making things up to suit their needs! If left unchecked, how long before those every day souls they protect experience corrupt justice? If these police can bring down a cab minister, wot next?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 179.

    Labour do not need to label the Tory party, the 'nasty party', it's blatant to everybody that they are the 'evil party'. They are destroying the lives of millions of 'hard working' families. People who are working hard and having their conditions and pay eroded. They're happy to put these people through pain (plebs) but they cannot conceive of making Starbucks pay its fair share of tax?! EVIL!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 178.

    I think Mr Mitchell doesn't sound like a nice man with good manners and a patient demeanour. However unpleasant he may be it still isn't permissable to fabricate evidence in your efforts to secure a desired outcome that reflects your own personal notion of justice. This should be an area of zero tolerance and robust indictment.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 177.

    What chance do we have of ever getting to the truth ... based on the an MP and a policemen giving evidence....... more wasted tax payers money

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 176.

    Trying to blame the Labour party for an internal row and/or conspiracy within the Tory whip's office is a bit rich.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 175.

    I think this is possibly more sinister than it first appears. How naïve was the officer to believe that he could get away with fabrication of evidence? Was it just familiarity and routine? With this and Hillsborough I am beginning to believe there a culture within the police of fabricating evidence to support their preconceived views?

 

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