UK Politics

Prime Minister's Questions: Andrew Mitchell is 'toast', says Miliband

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed over Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell's future after his row with police at the Downing Street gates.

The prime minister said in Parliament that what Mr Mitchell "did and said" was wrong, but he had apologised and the officer involved had accepted it.

Mr Miliband said despite the apology Mr Mitchell should not keep his job, suggesting that he was "toast".

But Mr Mitchell received the backing of Tory MPs at a meeting.

The chief whip is alleged to have called police officers who prevented him from leaving Downing Street via the main gate on his bicycle "plebs".

Mr Mitchell has denied using the words attributed to him in last month's incident, but he has apologised for not showing the officers enough respect.

At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron said: "What the chief whip did and said was wrong and this is why it is important that he apologised and apologised properly.

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Media captionDavid Cameron and Ed Miliband on Andrew Mitchell 's alleged 'pleb' comments

"That apology has been accepted by the officer concerned. It's been accepted by the head of the Metropolitan Police.

"That is why this government will get on with the big issue of helping Britain compete and succeed in the world."

The prime minister said the Labour leader was continuing to bring up Mr Mitchell's run-in with the police because he had "no plans" for the "real issues" like cutting the deficit and reforming welfare.

"He wants to discuss these issues because he's got nothing serious to say about the country," Mr Cameron said.

Mr Miliband replied that the abuse of police officers was a "real issue" and he accused cabinet ministers of supporting Mr Mitchell in public, but telling the media something different in private.

"He is completely undermined. His position is untenable. In other words, he is toast and that is the reality," Mr Miliband said.

"Let me tell you the truth about this government: Whilst everybody else loses their jobs, the chief whip keeps his."

Waiting for apology

The BBC has learned that there was criticism of Mr Mitchell at a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs later on Wednesday.

But the overall feeling was said to be that it was "time to rally round, show some solidarity and support the prime minister's decision not to sack the chief whip".

There was also anger at the Police Federation, which many Tory MPs believe is running a political campaign against Mr Mitchell.

The minister's decision to award £16m in aid to Rwanda on his final day as international development secretary, despite concerns about Rwandan support for militia groups committing human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was also raised at Prime Minister's Questions.

The prime minister said Rwanda had gone from "genocide and disaster to being a role model for development" and it was right to invest in the country.

However, the UK needed to be "very frank and very firm" with Rwanda's President Kagame on support for any militia.

During the Commons exchanges, Ed Miliband welcomed the latest unemployment figures - which show a fall of 50,000 in the three months to August - but raised concerns about the number of those out-of-work for more than a year remaining "stubbornly high".

Mr Cameron agreed long-term unemployment remained "too high" but said government schemes, like the Work Programme, were in place to tackle "this scourge". He said long term unemployment had risen under Labour.

The prime minister clashed with Labour MP Chris Bryant who asked him to to publish all correspondence between himself and former News International boss Rebekah Brooks and ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson - who both face trial over phone-hacking claims.

It follows a report in the Independent that Mr Cameron withheld some private emails from the Leveson inquiry after seeking personal legal advice.

As he had done in June this year, the prime minister refused to answer Mr Bryant because, he said, the MP still owed him an apology for accusing him in April of misleading Parliament.

The prime minister used the opportunity of being asked about energy prices to announce the government intends to legislate so energy companies have to give the lowest tariff to their customers.

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