Andrew Mitchell – Mayor concerned about alleged conspiracy
- 18 December 2012
- From the section UK Politics
Who cares whether Andrew Mitchell did or did not say "plebs" when he had an angry confrontation with police officers on the gates of Downing Street?
That's the reaction of some to the news that a police officer has been arrested for misconduct in a public office. He also claimed that he witnessed what happened, even though the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said this morning that he "wasn't there at the time"
One answer is that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, cares. He has told the commissioner that he is extremely concerned not just about this alleged wrongdoing but any suggestion of an alleged conspiracy. It is the first time anyone has so much as hinted at the idea that police officers might have cooked up the story that the former government chief whip called them "plebs."
However, the Head of the Met says cryptically that this "is not the whole story" and "there is more to this than meets the eye. I am afraid I am constrained in explaining that and I hope that, when people hear the full story, they will support what we've done". He also insists that the latest developments had not "really affected the original account of the officers at the scene".
Another answer is that many Tories have long feared that Mitchell was a victim not just of his own temper but also of the Police Federation's war with the government over police pay, pensions and changes to working conditions.
They are supported in this view by some on Labour's benches who are no fans of the police - such as Chris Mullin who wrote in The Times of his anger at what many see as Britain's most powerful "trade union". Although there is no evidence at all to suggest that the officer arrested in this instance was influenced by any Police Federation campaign.
A final reason to care is that this story is now part of the tug of war between press and politicians over press freedom.