Andrew Mitchell: not quite innocent

John Rentoul
andrew mitchell 225x300 Andrew Mitchell: not quite innocent

Former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell (Getty Images)

The former chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, is running an energetic campaign to exonerate and rehabilitate himself. Paul Goodman at Conservative Home is even running an Andrew Mitchell Is Innocent Day.

Rehabilitation is one thing. Like the Prime Minister, I believe in giving people a second chance. But exoneration?

He admitted at the time that he swore while protesting to a police officer. That alone was enough to make it hard for him to do his job of maintaining discipline among Tory MPs. The Prime Minister was entitled to sack him; and he is just as entitled to bring him back to a different post, as Mitchell was a talented minister at the Department for International Development before the Whips Office.

The conduct of the police, however, is a separate matter. Mitchell always denied using the word “plebs”, and it will presumably never be possible to establish exactly what he did say, but the use by the Police Federation of the incident for political purposes was bad; as was the apparent testimony of a witness who turned out to be an off-duty police officer; and as is the year-long delay in the Metropolitan Police’s internal investigation into what happened.

But just because he was stitched up doesn’t make Mitchell innocent. Even if the police turn out to have behaved far worse than he did – and he had the reasonable excuse of being obstructed because he was not in a car – he is not exactly innocent. A more penitent attitude might have a better chance of getting him back into government.

Update: I have amended this post to take out the reference to Mitchell losing his temper, as there is no evidence that he did anything other than express frustration. Some correspondents have also said that he did not swear “at” a police officer. “I thought you guys were supposed to f—ing help us” is a sentence addressed to a police officer containing a swear word. Let’s leave it at that.

  • aardvark10

    Totally Insignificant matter when compared with the dodgy dossiers and the deceptions leading to war in Iraq. Even more insignificant when compared to the non existent planning for the aftermath.

  • Pacificweather

    QTWTAIN 998: Do politicians and police always tell the truth on matters that concern their reputation?

  • Kippers

    Could there be some sort of conspiracy behind this, Mr Rentoul?

  • porkfright

    Heartily seconded.

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