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Andrew Mitchell revives Gategate at PMQs as whips worry his power is gone

17 October 2012

Andrew Mitchell isn’t going anywhere just yet, even if some of his ministerial colleagues are privately willing for him to face the high jump. But the story about him is still going somewhere because the chief whip apparently decided, quite unwisely, to intervene in the PMQs exchanges about him this lunchtime. But it’s not just cabinet ministers who are grumpy: the other whips are worried too.

Ed Miliband wisely started his questions with the unemployment figures, which meant Cameron’s later accusations that the Labour leader wasn’t interested in the real issues sounded weaker than they perhaps did as the Prime Minister planned them this morning. And he made a neat connection between the jobs and the Mitchell row by talking about cuts to police jobs.

‘Another promise broken, and it’s not just their promises, it’s their conduct as well. This is what the Mayor of London said last year: ‘…if people swear at the police, they must expect to be arrested’. According to the official police report a man called the police plebs, told them they should know their place, and used other abusive language. Can the PM now tell us did he say those words?’

Those watching Mitchell believe he mouthed ‘I didn’t swear’ at this point, which brings the whole story back to life as an accusation that the police made it up. One senior Tory I spoke to after the debate said ‘he has completely revived the story’.

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I also understand that there are now only two whips in Mitchell’s team who do not feel that the chief whip’s authority has completely gone and that he will have no power when trying to convince would-be rebels to toe the line. Number 10 is aware of this and is nervous, apparently. The chief whip might not be resigning just yet, but the first threatened rebellion is going to be the true test of whether Mitchell can hold on to his job for the long-term.

P.S. Cameron didn’t appear as rattled by Ed Miliband’s questions as Labour might have hoped. But something clearly got under his skin. Perhaps it was the combination of Ed Balls barracking away throughout the session and the sight of Chris Bryant getting to his feet to ask why the Prime Minister hadn’t published all his communications with Rebekah Brooks. Whatever it was, something irked the Prime Minister sufficiently to release Flashman. He said:

‘The Honourable Member stood up in this House and read out a whole lot of Leveson information that was under embargo… much of it about me that was untrue and he never apologised. You know what, until he apologises, I’m not going to answer his questions.’

Which means there are now two live rows after today’s PMQs.

UPDATE: Guido is now reporting that one whip is threatening to quit over the Mitchell row.

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Show comments
  • Sicksee One

    I love rude men. I suggest Andrew Mitchell comes over and lie in my back garden.

  • thatbill

    Andrew Mitchell was promoted beyond his intelligence. He should be told to go

  • M. Wenzl

    Interesting that Mitchell explicitly said “I didn’t swear” — so now he’s not denying the “pleb” part? To be honest, the whole story is a molehill that has become a mountain, but it’s interesting to see the (un)subtle ways in which politicians’ explanations of themselves change without them realising.

  • Bert

    This is all crap.
    Whats wrong with swearing at an overbearing policeman?
    I think we are in danger of forgetting that they serve, not command us, and to do their particular job they should have a thick skin.

    I admire Mitchell for not taking any s**t from them.

  • dorothy wilson

    Someone e-mailed into the Daily Politics programme along the lines that Milliminor was trying milk a mouse over this issue. Never heard that one before but it just about sums up Labour’s attitude.

  • Mike Barnes

    Are you allowed to just refuse to answer questions from people you don’t like?

    Very statesmanlike of you Dave.

    • Sarge

      well Blair and Brown were masters at doing so…..don’t like the legacy? Should have voted them out in 2001 or 2005.

  • In2minds

    So Mitchell has lost his power, never mind so has Cameron!

  • John_Page

    Just as dangerous but little discussed is the phrase “know your place”.

    This is utterly toxic for the Tories. I’m baffled why he wasn’t “resigned” at once. It shows astonishingly bad judgement on Cameron’s part. Yet he continues to defend him – on Rwanda too. Is it cloth ears or arrogance?

  • toco10

    Of course Red Ed is on home terrority when it comes to deceit and swearing having worked with his master Gordon(‘who was that bloody woman?’) Brown and the Smeargate trio of Damian McBride,Dolly Draper and Charlie Whelan.I still wish to know whether the hypocritical Red Ed derived benefit from expensive Inheritance Tax advice to avoid paying his fair share of tax albeit perfectly within the law-a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice but I am not holding my breath.

    • M. Wenzl

      As long as he paid his fair tax, there’s no contradiction in his beliefs. Taking measures to ensure tax efficiency (which is different from avoidance!) is, for want of a better expression, plain common sense.

      • toco10

        Tax efficiency and tax avoidance are the same thing!Tax evasion however is illegal.My point is if he paid expensive advisers to legally avoid tax this is fine but he is hypocritical if he criticises others for doing the same thing!I hope this helps you understand what was perhaps too subtle a point.

  • Gerry Dorrian

    Mitchell’s response is symptomatic of the overeducated, underexperienced elite that infests modern politics. It’s time to give smaller parties made of real people a chance at the next elections, as post-1990 Westminster politicians have given us nothing but a series of deceptions, disappointments and failures leaping over each other.

    • M. Wenzl

      True. But whoever said that being in government was easy, or free of gaffes, even at the best of times?

  • Torontory

    But at long last we heard of a policy from Miliband/Labour. His argument runs along the lines of:
    Mitchell swore at the police
    Saturday night yobs swear at the police
    Yobs get arrested
    Mitchell should lose his job for swearing at the police – therefore
    Anyone who swears at the police should lose their job.
    Is ‘Swear at the police and you’ll lose your job’ going to be Labour’s 2015 crime and employment policy? A pathetic attempt massively to overstate an event to make political capital where all of the parties directly affected have agreed to move on. Any chance of getting back to the real issues of the day?

    • James102

      None whatsoever. Our political class are more like aged students than anything else because they go from university to media-Spad to parliament.
      Like teachers and social workers ,quality would be improved if they had to have spent a minimum period working in the private sector before entering their chosen field.

    • Mynydd

      I’ll tell you who would lose their job, anyone who lost their control and swore at security at the factory gate, and then, threatened to get them sacked, would be down the road with their P45. Another sackable offence is to be found drinking wine at your desk.

      • Torontory

        Under current UK employment law, for a first episode, almost certainly not. At most it would be a written warning. If dismissed, the ex-employee would almost certainly win their for unfair dismissal.

  • Adrian Drummond

    Whilst not dismissing the significance of Mitchell’s supposed remarks, it seems somewhat unfortunate that with all the more important issues at stake in the UK and beyond, Miliband has to play party politics.

    • James102

      He is not only a politician but almost an identikit member of the political class, what do you expect?

  • DavidDP

    “he has completely revived the story”
    Oh, it was never dead. The Police Federation are seeing to that without Mitchell’s help. See Chris Mullin in the Times.
    “Those watching Mitchell believe he mouthed ‘I didn’t swear’ at this point”
    This is an interesting game of Chinese Whispers – the inital claim was by Kevin Maguire (he of the Mirror) and stated simply that Mitchell mouthed “I didn’t”. Yet this has now become Mitcehll mouthing “I didn’t swear.”.Now, Milliband did refer to swearing, but it’s likely that Mitchell was simply responsing in general to what he thought Milliband was going to go on (ie the pleb issue – and I still don’t understand why this is a major deal), and the story has certainly shifted from Maguire’s initial claim.

  • gramma

    Miliband’s accusation was that Mitchell swore AT the police.
    Mitchell does not deny swearing but denies it was aimed AT the police officer directly.
    Personally, think It’s all effing balls.[decipher accordingly]

  • Keith

    I don’t think this is a story about Mitchell’s authority. It’s a story about Cameron’s authority. If Mitchell goes over such a contrived lot of nonsense, Cameron will look utterly feeble.

    • James102

      Cameron should have moved immediately, suspending Mitchell “pending” an inquiry. His authority would then not be in question.
      Mitchell will go, it is inevitable and the longer it goes on the more authority/credibility Cameron loses.
      It is the inevitable outcome of appointing people like Cameron who are untested. They need to learn on the job which is a bit of a risk for us.

      • Anthony Makara

        In a Chums government, the ruthless streak needed to keep the reputation of the government intact, is missing. What does one have to do to get the sack these days? More worrying, what has happened to the honourable politician who one could depend on to fall on his sword and save the reputation of the government? As this saga drags on Mr Ed will take great joy in artfully chipping away at the edifice.

        • M. Wenzl

          Looking at the record of the others, do you think that someone like Gove or Osborne could quite literally get away with murder?

  • L’Arse

    Clegg wearing his yellow tie says it all – ‘Nothing to do with me, guv’.

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