Andrew Mitchell’s piece in the FT today marks his return to normal politics post-Plebgate. Up to now, Mitchell has confined his post-resignation comments either to his old stomping ground of development or to the sequence of events that led to his premature departure from government. By contrast, today’s piece sees Mitchell getting involved in a frontline political issue, Britain’s relationship with Europe.
The article is full of suggestions, joint-sittings of the UK-Polish parliament and meetings of the UK-Dutch Cabinets. But Mitchell is clearly determined to work within the framework set out by Cameron’s Europe speech. No one could say that the articles rocks the boat.
But what makes it significant to my mind are two things. That Mitchell chose to make his first big intervention on Europe indicates that he’s not averse to the idea of becoming Britain’s next European Commissioner. This job comes up in 2014 and Mitchell’s name is rumoured to be in the frame. Certainly, there are those in Downing Street who feel that they owe Mitchell one after the nature of his departure from Cabinet.
Second, that Mitchell is calling for a diplomatic push to follow the Prime Minister’s speech reveals a certain concern among allies of the PM that the speech is not being capitalised on at home or abroad. There has been less follow-through than one might have expected. There’s a good case to be made that the former chief whip is the man the Prime Minister needs walking the corridors of Brussels and touring the chancelleries of Europe for him.