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
    +12

    Comment number 234.

    if the police worked together to put this guy out of political office...what chance for the rest of us? we must reduce the police powers and make them accountable to any member of the public for any action they take. a sort of..how was my policing? phone number given out with every complaint/arrest then trust may return. I dont think they like being policed

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 233.

    A clear conspiracy. More confidence lost in the police. So many public servants seem to have political agendas that are so overtly self serving.

  • rate this
    -14

    Comment number 232.

    This is a red herring trying to whitewash Mitchell.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 231.

    The only thing Nick says that is important is that this is a serious issue, but not because of who said what. The seriousness is that the whole thing just shows that those who want our trust, politicians, police or press don't damned well deserve it obviously. An indictiment of how petty and self serving they all are underneath and all obviously willing to abuse the public trust to score points

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 230.

    Why was the CCTV footage not released within hours of the incident?
    Maybe because this would have proved Michell was more concerned about a barrier to his stately progress than about maintaining the security of Downing Street.
    He apologised for using 'foul and abusive language' in a public place after reacting like a tantram-prone ten year old.
    Re-instate him to the Cabinet?!
    Great idea!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 229.

    @168 Saga
    It's hard for us to know what to think. The story appears highly fluid. Conspiracies in dark corners? I'd like to think not.

    But, almost as worrying, is my hunch that some people at No10, the HO & Scotland Yard are either kept far too busy so that they cannot handle a minor crisis like this or ... ?

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 228.

    Hogan-Howe says nothing has changed. He says he still stands by the two police officers who were at the scene. These officers stated that passers by were "visibly shocked" by the incident. The CCTV shows that nobody other than the police was there. So if that part of their evidence was false, I am prepared to accept Mr Mitchell's word that the rest of it was fabricated.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 227.

    206.Dr_Ads

    I really wouldn't worry yourself with the snobbish opinion of yorkshirecatflap, but it is odd that someone can be considered to be from an upper class background, privileged education etc and be reviled because of just that, whereas another can be a darling of the nation e.g. Stephen Fry

    Envy and hypocrisy, I fear

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 226.

    Perhaps the police should employ a skilled publicist like Max Clifford to put a positive spin on the allegations of dishonesty. He could charge them triple rates to make up for them nicking him.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 225.

    @199 He may not have said what he said, but he's still an upper class snob!

    As are most MP's regardless of party it's just that the leftties deny being rich/upperclass/elite when we all know the real truth!!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 224.

    @192 Paul McQ,
    If you watch the CCTV,footage,in the politics section.The film,does show what appears to be a gentleman,wearing a rucksack,a black and yellow top,and white trainers,who loiters outside the gate,then instantly turns into a lady wearing,black clothes and carrying a white handbag ? Obviously,not a complete picture there.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 223.

    @216. Pricklyghost

    Because the police can't afford it since the politicians cut all their funding to zero

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 222.

    Who is entitled to use the gate. Would a car passenger or motor cylist be asked to use the side gate.

    What are the rules or is it made up as you go along to suit the situation. Does the question of mutual respective have a place here.

    What would your reaction be in these circumstances?

    Are cylist meant to use roads or pavements?

  • Comment number 221.

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

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 220.

    204 colinag01

    What puzzles me is why there has been so much controversy over what appears to have been a relatively straightforward event. It wouldn't have taken much of an investigation or review with the 3 people or so directly involved with the incident to establish what happened.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 219.

    This mirrors several cases involving naturist where the police have arrested and charged people for public order offences where there has been no complainant just an unidentified "shocked" person in the distance. Maybe this is because the courts have decided that the police, despite their exposure to the horrors of life apply a very low threshold to being "shocked" themselves

  • rate this
    -22

    Comment number 218.

    It's hard to consider Nick Robinsons comments objectively,considering his own priviledged background,private school,Oxford(PPE,of course),president of the young conservatives,head of the conservative association at Oxford etc,etc,.Sadly the BBC is now almost totally filled with public schoolboys,from a decreasing number of families.....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 217.

    Your absolutely right it does matter Nick. Someone needs to explain why it took 23 years to uncover the truth about police fabricating evidence around the death of 96 people at a football ground while a posh bloke pushing a bike and giving some verbals to the police seems to have a fast-tracked investigation?

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 216.

    With the technology we have today I really can't understand why the police aren't carrying a device fitted to their uniform that at the touch of a button can record all the audio & video of any altercation with anyone anywhere. If they did have that it would without any doubt provide absolutely clear evidence of everything said by everyone, I have these devices with me all the time why don't they?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 215.

    E-mail written because they were disgusted with the behaviour of Mitchell. He didn't know exactly what was in the Police log but it would have been widespread what had happened as soon as the officer returned to the station and so the accounts for such a brief exchange would be very similar. If Police were to lie about a word used do you really think they would use the word pleb?

 

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