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Mitchell row could make MPs think again before criticising a colleague in trouble

20 December 2012

Tory MPs – and the occasional Lib Dem, too – were flocking around Andrew Mitchell in the Commons yesterday to show their support for the former chief whip. He is enjoying a new wave of support in his party, rather than languishing as persona non grata on the backbench.

But the picture is still not clear. Mitchell himself admitted that he swore during the exchange with the police: less politically toxic, perhaps, than ‘pleb’, but swearing at a police officer is still something that can land you with a fine in a Magistrates Court. And there are two other police officers who claim the chief whip said both words.

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Another person who has not emerged unscathed from this row is Sir Jeremy Heywood. He reviewed the CCTV footage himself, but seems not to have noticed that there were no witnesses. Mark Reckless rounded on Heywood yesterday, tweeting that the ‘Mitchell saga owes much to another monumentally useless performance by Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood. Time for the PM to take charge’.

The chief whip was not discussed in great detail at last night’s 1922 committee, beyond one MP saying the party needed to learn a lesson from what had happened. Remember that it was the 1922 meeting where a number of backbenchers expressed concerns about Mitchell that contributed to his decision to resign. Back then, senior MPs were furious with those from the new intake who ‘didn’t have a real perspective on what a proper problem for the party is’, as one long-serving MP told me at the time. The next time one of their number is under threat, Tory MPs may round on those who speak out against them more forcefully.

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Show comments
  • William Blakes Ghost

    Oh my god shock horror human being swears. What Willy Wonka planet does Ms Hardman live on?

    As for Heywood is it any surprise? Just about everyone Cameron chooses to surround himself with in his inner circle turns out to be a prize incompetent tw@ or worse.(Osborne, Coulson, Oliver, Heywood, Hunt, Hilton, Letwin) Cameron positively collects them!

    Oops I swore. Does that mean I will be headline news for the next 6 weeks?

    PS And I have no trouble being a pleb either in fact I’m rather proud of my pleb status:.

    The plebs was the general body of free, land-owning Roman citizens (as distinguished from slaves and the capite censi) in Ancient Rome.
    It was the non-aristocratic class of Rome and consisted of freed
    people, shopkeepers, crafts people, skilled or unskilled workers, and
    farmers.[1] Members of the plebs were also distinct from the higher order of the patricians. A member of the plebs was known as a plebeian ( /plɨˈbiːən/; Latin: plebeius).This term is used today to refer to one who is or appears to be of the
    middle or lower order; however, in Rome plebeians could become quite
    wealthy and influential.

    Rather that than being a ‘patrician’ AKA “urban liberal elitist lowlife”.

    What is disgraceful is the divisive class bigotry being perpetrated by the urban liberal elite upon the rest of society when it fact it is the urban liberal elite that is the malignancy.

  • Russell

    Isabel. I thought it was your job to tell the fu**ing truth!

    Now did I swear at you?

  • Russell


    You ‘conveniently’ forgot to mention the leader of your opposition party…Miliband.

    I bet he doesn’t demand an enquiry into this little affair, especially after the comments he made regarding Mitchell.

    Strange why you don’t think your hero Miliband should have to ‘think again’.
    This looks like a bandwagon Miliband jumped on too far.

  • Colonel Mustard

    The plot thickens:-

    “A second man has been arrested in connection with the Andrew Mitchell “plebgate” affair, police said today. The 23-year-old, who is not a police officer or a member of police staff, was arrested last night on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence on or around December 14, Scotland Yard said.”

  • John Mackie

    ‘I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us’

    In this sentence, the object of the F word is ‘help’, NOT ‘you guys’.

    Therefore he did not swear AT the police, but rather, in their presence.

    And shouldn’t heavily armed guards be chosen from the ranks of police with sufficiently thick skin not to go into an effeminate tizzy when somebody uses strong language?

  • John_Page

    What’s more serious? Using the F word to a policeman, or tossing millions of our money at Rwanda?

    It’s the cavalier dishing out of our money that makes Mitchell unfit for ministerial office.

    • Simon Fay

      He was only following orders, dear boy. Must say, I’m struggling with the exonerating distinction cited by many here between swearing AT someone and berating them in a sweary way.

  • Tom Burroughes

    All the more reason to be wary of the suggestion in the Leveson Report that police officers of a certain rank should record, and at some later date, disclose, contacts with the press, since this will reduce the chance of whistleblowers raising alarms about misbehaviour. Of course, it also means that coppers looking to make mischief can do so via the media, but this is less bad than a supine media. I hope the moral of this is not lost on those foolish Tory MPs who want statutory regulation of the Fourth Estate.

  • HooksLaw

    The Govt Chief Whip made a categorical statement. The Leader of the Opposition chose effectively to call him a liar. Miliband is not a ‘colleague’ of Mitchell. He is the one who chose to make political capital out of it.

  • anyfool

    Muttering under his breath about police procedures brought down a cabinet minister.

    That a country is brought to this is pathetic, if you think of all the damage done by the Labour Party to this country this little vignette surely indicates why it was so easy for them.

    That Cameron let it happen or a least appointed a clearly incompetent twit in “Heywood” is a reflection of his lack of clarity of purpose in that he is quite content to let things take there course regardless as long as it puts off proper accountability to another day, see how many u turns support this.

    But regardless of Cameron’s faults this shows that almost all systems of governance is this country is corrupted and that is Labours true gift to all the people of this country.

    Miss Hardman a great amount of this damage is down to the fourth estate who have with a few exceptions have let this come about because they were afraid to be pushed out of Blair and Campbells little coterie of sycophants, what a pathetic bunch you have committed yourself to, still i am sure you will refuse an invitation to a pyjama party in the future.

  • LB

    But the picture is still not clear. Mitchell himself admitted that he swore at a police officer: less politically toxic, perhaps, than ‘pleb’, but still something that can land you with a fine in a Magistrates Court.


    No you can’t. You are making it up.


    Magistrates at Thames Youth Court found him guilty in March last year after concluding Mr Harvey’s expletives were uttered in a public area while a group of teenage bystanders gathered around.

    “There were people around who don’t need to hear frightening and abusive words issuing from young men,” the magistrates said.

    However, bringing his appeal, Mr Harvey challenged his conviction claiming that no one within earshot – let alone two hardened police officers – would have been alarmed, distressed or harassed by his swearing.

    Allowing the appeal, Mr Justice Bean said the only people nearby were the police officers and the group of youths – many of whom may have been “sympathetic” with Mr Harvey.

    The expletives he used were heard “all too frequently” by police officers on duty, said the judge, and so were unlikely to have greatly disturbed them.



  • In2minds

    But will the Mitchell row make the police think again before acting? I doubt it, they will blunder on as before.

  • Molly

    Two thoughts.

    Firstly, to correct Isabel, Mitchell hasn’t admitted swearing “at” a Police officer; he has apologised for swearing in the presence of a police officer. There is a huge difference between saying, as he claims, something along the lines of “I thought you were here to f**ing help us” and, for example, “f*** off you nasty copper”. The second is an example of swearing “at” a police officer.

    Secondly, and a bit conspiratorially, I wonder if the logs leaked to the Telegraph and the Sun are the logs of the two officers on duty? Notably, thus far the police have refused to release copies of the police log, and so everyone is relying on what appeared in those two papers and is assuming they are what is claimed. It seems possible that not only could the email to Randall be a fabrication, but the log which was leaked to the Telegraph and Sun could be also. Have those newspapers been duped? Obviously for this to be the case begs the question about why what was printed wasn’t corrected by the police, but then this is the story which keeps giving……..

    • ButcombeMan

      I can come up with even more to consider.

      The now famous e-mail SHOULD have been given to the Police as it identified a WITNESS.

      Was it given?

      If not, why Not?

      If it was given, the Police should have contacted the writer for a witness statement, or at least a confirmation of identity, just in case.

      Did they?

      Did they identify the writer as a serving Police Officer & suppress that information, hoping it would all go away?

      The fuss upto now would be as nothing to the fuss if that came out.

  • Swiss Bob

    But the picture is still not clear. Mitchell himself admitted that he swore at a police officer: less politically toxic, perhaps, than ‘pleb’, but still something that can land you with a fine in a Magistrates Court.

    Jesus H Christ the crap written on this site.

    Even I know after reading about this story that it is NOT an offence to swear at police officers under S5.

    Secondly he didn’t swear AT a police officer.

    The whole point of the fake witness is that S5 can be applied where the police make up shit about a member of the public being shocked etc.

    Collect your P45 on the way out.

  • Latimer Alder

    For a parliament and civil service full of lawyers who boast among their (few) useful skills the ability to look at evidence objectively, they seem to have completely ballsed this one up bigtime.

    Maybe I watch too many editions of Crimewatch, but surely the first thing to do is look at CCTV to see if the reported story is even plausible…let alone correct in all particulars. It begins to look like there just wasn’t enough time for the incident as recorded in the log to have taken place. Butwhy has it taken a couple of months for this to come to light?

    And if you get an e-mail out of the blue containing serious allegations about somebody, you consider having a chat with its author to confirm its details before proceeding with a lynch mob. It seems now that the author has denied even being there at all.

    I am deeply saddened that all those supposedly looking after our best interests have been shown to be so panic-stricken and lacking in intellectual clarity throughout this whole affair.

    It begins to look like the only people to come out of this whole intensely stupid affair with any credit will be Mitchell and Davis.


  • Colonel Mustard

    I’d check the case law on being fined for swearing at a police officer if I were you! It’s a nice myth that the New Police are happy to perpetuate as part of their intimidatory tactics to cow the public.

    But behind the scenes Met police have issued memo cards to their officers that state, inter alia, that the courts do not accept that simply swearing at a police officer is grounds for an arrest and that the MPS has had to make settlements in the past when officers have arrested solely for this. It also reminds officers that the use of handcuffs on arrested persons should be justified and not routine which goes to show how effective the cards are in penetrating through to their brains. TV and monkey see monkey do has a lot to answer for.

    In this particular case, from his own admission of saying ‘I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us’, Mitchell could not be said to have sworn “at” the police anyway. No case to answer.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Ergo the supposed threat of arrest under POA would have been unlawful too, with the officer concerned exceeding his power. Unless the actions of police officers are bound by law also Peel’s Principles are contravened. Unfortunately we seem a long way from that now.

    • Andy

      Exactly. He didn’t swear at the Police. He used a ‘F’ word while speaking to the Police.

      And as we now know the Police version, as recorded in the Downing Street Log, of these ‘events’ is a tissue of lies.

      I will look forward to a number of Police Officers being dismissed.

      • Latimer Alder

        And after a long day and wanting to get home, I too would probably have sworn at the gateman if he seemed to be being deliberately jobsworthian. Especially if (as rumoured) the guy on the shift before had seen no problems in opening the big gate.

        This is a tiff about nothing very much at all and that it was taken so seriously within the Westminster bubble reflects very badly on the judgement of our Lords and Masters

        • HooksLaw

          You are right the actual event was a tiff about nothing. But the misreporting of it is of supreme importance. The ‘pleb’ word is really toxic because it nicely and coincidentally (?) fits in to the Labour narrative of the govt being supercilious and arrogant.

          Just whose idea was it to dredge up this word? A word so eagerly leapt upon by both the police trade union and the Labour leader?

          • Latimer Alder

            Sure. Politics can be a nasty and trivial game.

            But whoever dreamt up the word – the only actual witness we can take any notice of is Mitchell – he was there and he vehemently denies using the word. Nobody else who was verifiably present has come forward to say what they heard/saw. Everything else is just hearsay.

            It may be that Mr Mitchell is nastiest piece of work since Vlad the Impaler or the sweetest little cupcake since sugar and spice and all things nice….or somewhere inbetween. I have no idea which it is. And until this incident I had never heard of the guy.

            But in this case everybody has rushed to judgement without seemingly giving any thought to whether the allegations have any foundation.

            Mr Mitchell has been shabbily treated by both his party and his fellow parliamentarians. It reflects badly on all of them. They should all grow up and stop their infantile games in favour of a bit of maturity and clear thinking.

            • Andy

              I’m afraid it is not quite so simple. The Downing Street Security Log is published in The Times today. It states several members of the public heard this exchange, but we know that this is untrue – the CCTV footage told us that. So the Police Officer who made that entry is a liar. He/She also states that they made a long note of the matter in their Pocket Book. Let this be produced.

              The email sent by a ‘member of the public’ repeats details from the Security Log, but this email was sent before the Log was leaked, so that means there has been some clear collusion between Police Officers to undermine a Minster of the Crown. This is totally and utterly unacceptable and heads must roll at the Met.

              Further when Andrew Mitchell met with Police Officers who were members of the West Midlands Police Federation one of those officers came out and said that Mitchell had not given a detailed account of events. The meeting was recorded and this is shown to be totally and utterly untrue.

              Frankly is all of this isn’t reason for radical reform of the Police Service then I don’t know what is. But first there must be a few sackings and I hope prosecutions.

              The problem here are the actions of the Police, not just the officers on duty but a few others.

    • HooksLaw

      And given, Colonel the gross drop in standards in so far as we have the F word happily splattered into our living rooms by the BBC’s favourite lefty comedians – then its hardly a problem a cabinet minister using it.

      • Colonel Mustard

        It’s more leftist hypocrisy. Their “edgy” BBC “comedians” can use the most outrageous language on TV – not even uttered in anger. But a cabinet minister is not allowed to lose his temper, let alone swear, or it becomes a matter of high, public indignation by all the usual leftist dross. The same people who thought Prescott’s common assault against a constituent was just amusing.

        • Thick as two Plancks

          Prescott won a lot of support from conservatives for sorting out that idle troublemaker.

    • salieri

      Indeed. But of course you can be arrested for calling an officer’s horse gay – because there’s always someone else around to be offended.

    • ButcombeMan

      Isabel is just totally out of her depth writing articles for this audience. It is about time someone put her out of her misery. She does not check the basic facts. She would fail an apprenticeship on a small town free paper.

      You are correct Mustard, the Courts have decided that swearing at a Police Officer when only the Police Officer is present, is not an offence.

      Richardson v Chief Constable of West Midlands has also constrained unnecessary arrests.

      A lot of Policing is done by bluff, bluster, bullying and (years ago) by “verballing”-inventing things said by the accused..

      Sadly even now, away from the tape recorded interview room, in the car on the way to the station and ESPECIALLY in “Public Order offences”, verballing still goes on. Members of the public standing by, are always said to be “shocked”. This is absolutely standard practice. The required verbals skip the light fantastic, into the ever so relaible, “pocket book”

      Sadly for Bernard Hogan Howe, the log on Plodgate (and probably the “Pocket books”) reads like a standard, robotised, invented, “public order” script.

      It was obvious from the start, as I remarked here at the time (in terms).

      Too many people wanted the accusations against Mitchell to be as in the log, there was too much eagerness. Even from his own colleagues and some here.

      All made worse because Cameron totally mismanaged the research by giving the job to Jeremy Haywood.

      Plainly out of his depth. Not his skill set at all.

      To think that Heywood had sight of that garbled letter and the video which indicates it is untrue, (& to which our Prime Minister no less, was to attach so much importance) and Heywood did not establish the BASIC fact that it was from a serving Police Officer.

      Just un- bloody- believable.

      Brian Rix would have been proud of this. The Whitehall Theatre, it would run and run.

  • Andy

    ‘And there are two other police officers who claim the chief whip said both words.’

    And you believe a word of it ? I don’t. The Downing Street Security Log is evidently a tissue of lies, as the CCTV footage clearly reveals. So why should we believe anything these officers say ? You can’t.

    Bernard Hogan Howe has a problem. If the Police Officers guarding Downing Street (drawn I believe from the Diplomatic Protection Squad) are so thoroughly dishonest what does that tell you about the rest of the Met ?

  • ToryOAP

    Let’s be clear Mzz Hardman; Mr Mitchell did not swear AT a policeman, he used the ‘F’ word as an adjective to describe their lack of assistance, not as a noun or an adjective to describe them. There isn’t a magistratetes court in the country that would not throw this out. As an ex Human Resources Director I can tell you that Mr Brown swearing at staff and throwing mobile phones around is a much more serious issue and would land any normal, private sector employer in the dock of an employment tribunal on charges of bullying. Please try and be accurate.

    • Magnolia

      Agree completely.
      I despise the common usage of the F word today but it is used as frequently as people would have said bl**dy in the past.
      I have been told that its use is more common amongst the ‘upper classes’ who say f**k at almost every other word.

      • Mycroft

        Don’t believe everything you’re told!

    • HooksLaw

      A good point to remind us about Brown and his behavior. A few labour MPs and their new leader might care to remember it. As well as reminding us about what actually happened.

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