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Andrew Mitchell needs to worry about his own team, not Labour’s £1,000 fine threat

18 October 2012

Determined to keep the Andrew Mitchell story alive for as long as possible, Labour confirmed this morning that next week’s Opposition Day debate will follow the party’s call for Andrew Mitchell to receive a £1,000 fine for his outburst by the gates of Downing Street and debate police cuts. The idea is to highlight the ‘double standards’ line that Ed Miliband pushed yesterday at PMQs: while swearing at a police officer would lead to ‘a night in the cell for the yobs, it is a night at the Carlton Club for the Chief Whip’.

As James reported last night, the 1922 Committee was largely warm towards the chief whip, with only five MPs speaking out against Mitchell in the end. Some senior MPs accuse colleagues of failing to realise that this isn’t a real crisis for the party and therefore being too voluble in public about it, while others are relieved Mitchell is staying as they think it allows them to continue voting as they please on certain issues. But I suspect next week’s debate will see Tory MPs falling over themselves to either take a leaf out of Bernard Jenkin’s book and make a strong stand in favour of Mitchell in the chamber or at least hold an urgent meeting at the corrugated cardboard factory in their constituency for the duration of the debate.

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It is unlikely to move the story on much further, unless Mitchell chooses to mouth his version of events at the Opposition, as he did yesterday. If Tory MPs really wanted to oust him, they would have made more of an effort by now, and they could well have succeeded, but they haven’t.

The real crunch point will come when Mitchell finds himself co-ordinating his team of whips when the next rebellion appears on the horizon. Will he be able to command the attention and respect of the Prime Minister and dissuade him from the sort of consistently inconsistent messaging that fed the Lords rebellion this summer? And will he manage to command the whips below him? I blogged yesterday that only two whips in Mitchell’s coterie feel he still has authority as chief after the row, while deputy chief whip John Randall was forced to deny he had threatened quitting after Guido’s scoop. If Mitchell can re-inspire loyalty in his team and sufficiently terrify backbenchers who threaten to rebel, then perhaps he will survive into the long-term, too.

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  • Mick

    Sean – “Plebgate”? Where I live you just couldn’t be more wrong.

    In Andrew Mitchell’s old constituency of Gedling it’s pub talk (like the MP’s expenses was), because,

    a) Mitchell won’t come actually clean on what he actually said and didn’t say,

    b) on the occasions he did visit Gedling, he came over as vastly superior to everyone else – suggesting more than a ring of truth in the “allegations”.

    If he’d fessed up and said, “Okay, I did say those things. I was a prat and bang out of order.” People would have tut-tutted a bit and and forgotten about it by now. As he hasn’t done that – nor has he challenged the police report formally, folks around here think he’s a shit and seem to be enjoying seeing him wriggle.

    I honestly don’t know whether he’s done wrong or completely innocent, so since 24 September I’ve written to him five times simply asking if he called the bobbies plebs and have yet to receive any answer (other than the automated e-receipt). Given that my taxes pay his ministerial salary, it does smack of arrogance.

    I shall be going for a pint tonight and can guarantee that England’s dismal showing will lead story but Andrew Mitchell’s “I didn’t swear” at PMQ’s will be not far behind.

  • anyfool

    Every years hundreds of millions of pounds are spent keeping parliament going.
    Labour are going to waste millions to be cock a snook, nothing will happen, nothing sensible will arise and people will ever so slightly withdraw from the political process, these people are so far detached from the reality of life they cannot see that every time little bits of fluff like this become a major talking point in the country at large will eventually render politics irrelevant and other methods of rule will come the fore.

  • Corinium

    After last night’s 1922 Committee he’s nearly home and dry. If there are, say, less than a dozen Tory abstentions on the vote to reduce his salary then he’ll be OK. More than that and I think he’d have to go.

    This whole thing has made me despair. Talk about the infantilisation of British politics.

    I understand that the Labour Party want to have fun with this but what with Syria, Hillsborough, Jimmy Savile, the economy and so many other things to have a debate about they choose a stupid spat. Pathetic.

    Also, the vituperation aimed at Mitchell has been both snobbish and demented, particularly from the Daily Mail. He has undoubtedly attracted their particular loathing because he carried out the Goverment’s policy of increasing International Aid. I think he was rather a good SoS at DfID and the sly remarks in the Mail about ’emergency audits’ and the like are deliberately designed to make it look as if he was a bit ”iffy’. What a foul newspaper.

  • toco10

    Red Ed certainly knows all about abusive language having been the dysfunctional Gordon Brown’s bag carrier for almost a decade.Brown’s daily abuse to all and sundry is legendary so it seems Red Ed is applying double standards here.People who live in £2.6 million houses and are rumoured to derive personal tax benefit albeit legally by employing expensive tax advisers should not throw stones.Andrew Mitchell lapsed on a single occasion whereas Gordon Brown made a regular habit of it.

  • Sean

    I hate to break this to you, but no one outside the Westminster bubble actually gives a fetid dingos kidney about Andrew Mitchell and his alleged spat with a police officer.

    If you are harping on about this, it can only mean one of two things.

    1, There is nothing interesting happening that you know about.

    2, Something interesting is happening but you need to detract attention by spawning garbage.

    So, which one is it?

    • ScaryBiscuits

      Sean, you need to understand this as a proxy argument. IDS, for example, isn’t allowed to criticise the PM over the Europe and his vague in-in referrendum proposal or wasting money on foreign aid without resigning. He can, however, have a joke at the expense of the somebody who has enthusiastically supported all these policies. Thus, the argument over Mitchell is more about Cameron and his refusal to allow the party to have the policies it wants or even to debate them. Mitchell is merely a convenient kicking stool.

    • telemachus

      We care
      The Tories care

      If Andrew Mitchell, as one of the Tories’ few Birmingham MPs, cannot make a Birmingham Tory Conference to help smooth things along what the hell use is he anyway as Chief Whip.

      As we know he didn’t even dare show his face afraid (the Tory word is ‘frit’ )of
      recriminations from his own.

      However he need not have worried, the Tories have many things in common, from their contempt for working class people to their fondness for the super-rich. But one thing they are not is all in it together.

      As we will see at next week’s debate

      • Charlie the Chump


  • TomTom

    When is the Corby Bye-Election ?

  • In2minds

    Perhaps Andrew Mitchell is worried next time he will get shot with a tazer gun!

  • David Lindsay

    Has no one made a formal complaint about his crime?

    If anyone did, then he would be arrested, or at the very least interviewed under caution, which would also make his position untenable.

    One for the Labour Whips Office.

    • blx

      Why doesn’t someone make a formal complaint against the police officer for neglect of duty in failing to arrest someone who was using insulting or threatening words and/or behaviour? Then the truth might come out and this boil be finally lanced.

      • DMD

        Even if Andrew Mitchell did exactly what the reports suggest, he probably did not commit a criminal offence.
        It is not enough to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to commit s 5 Public Order Act 1986. It has to be done in the sight or hearing of someone liable to be alarmed, harassed or distressed by it. The Police Officers were not best pleased, I would imagine by being called “f-ing plebs” but I doubt that it caused them distress.
        This applies to everyone – Cabinet minister or Ed Milliband’s drunken yobbo.

        • dorothy wilson

          I can’t seem to remember Prescott being fined for thumping a member of the public. Neither can I remember Brown being fined for calling a humble pensioner a “bigot”.

          As the e-mailer to yesterday’s Daily Politics put it, Labour are trying to milk a mouse over this. As always, they are hypocrites of the first order.

          • Daniel Maris

            Er, I don’t remember Prescott starting that fight. Mitchell started this one by defying the clear orders of the Police tasked with protecting the Prime Minister and his Cabinet from terrorist attack.

        • David Lindsay

          Let’s find out, then.

        • Daniel Maris

          And Carlsberg is “probably” the best lager in the world.

          Anyway, I think you are wrong. The media reported I think that there were members of the public around who were shocked by what they heard. That seems quite likely. There are normally people around that end of Downing Street during the day and into early evening.

          Also, in the context of being a government minister as opposed to being a tramp on the street, the police evidently were distressed by his outburst. Quite rightly so. I would have been shocked as well.

          Let’s not forget he’d been for lunch off site, earlier on hadn’t he?

    • Frank Furter

      Even if somebody made a complaint it is highly unlikely that Mitchell would be arrested. Before 2005, this offence (POA 1986 s5) was not arrestable. After 2005, it became arrestable subject to a test of ‘necessity’. Had the PC arrested Mitchell, then he would have been told why it was necessary for him to be arrested. There is a list of such reasons – none of which, as far as I can see, would apply in this case. At most, since there is no necessity to arrest Mitchell, he could be invited to a Station to give his version of events. Do you see that happrning? Neither do I.

      • Daniel Maris

        What do you mean the offence wasn’t arrestable? Swearing at a Police officer has always been a potential offence.

        He was interfering with the actions of the Police by trying to make them do something that was not within their orders. That is clearly an offence. He was also causing a breach of the peace by seeking to overrule the clear and legitimate request of the Police.

        • Frank Furter

          Swearing at a Police Officer has never been an offence. POA 1986 s5, is a summary offence and does not carry a prison nor community sentence. Before 2005, such offences were not arrestable. They could only be dealt with on summons. Perhaps you are confusing this with the common law offence of ‘conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace’? This older offence allows for arrest but only carries a ‘bind over’ as the outcome – a bind over is not a sentence but a type of injunction. Police tend to use this less frequently now because it must go before a magistrate for the bind over, whereas the other offence can be dealt with by caution.There is no offence of interfering with the actions of the police. There is an offence of ‘Obstructing a police officer in the execution of their duty’. Although a summary offence, it carries a possible 1 month prison sentence and was therefore arrestable prior to 2005. Although police officers have always had a general power of arrest, this is a common law power that all citizens possess. In exercising this power, Police officers, like other citizens, have to be cautious that they are not acting unlawfully.

    • Frank Furter

      Even if somebody made a complaint it is highly unlikely that Mitchell would be arrested. Before 2005, this offence (POA 1986 s5) was not arrestable. After 2005, it became arrestable subject to a test of ‘necessity’. Had the PC arrested Mitchell, then he would have been told why it was necessary for him to be arrested. There is a list of such reasons – none of which, as far as I can see, would apply in this case. At most, since there is no necessity to arrest Mitchell, he could be invited to a Station to give his version of events. Do you see that happrning? Neither do I.

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