All the best apologies these days are celebrated with a nice autotune session on YouTube. But this afternoon’s apologies, if you can call them that, from Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones didn’t quite deserve that sort of treatment. In fact, the two men, appearing separately, had managed to tune their own evidence rather well.
They both said that they ‘cannot apologise for something I haven’t done’, when asked to apologise for lying about the meeting. Hinton said he regretted ‘any distress caused’ to Mr Mitchell and his family. Keith Vaz pressed Jones on whether he wanted to apologise to Mitchell and his family, saying ‘you don’t believe you had anything to do with any distress that was caused?’ There was a long, awkward pause, and then Jones said: ‘I come back to the point that I can’t apologise for something I haven’t done.’
Neither man wanted to to apologise for anything more specific beyond the circumstances that Mitchell found himself in around the time of the meeting, although Hinton apologised for previously telling the committee that he had not refried to Theresa May as ‘this woman’ or ‘that woman’ when talking to Mitchell. He said: ‘I appear to have failed to bring the Home Secretary’s name to mind, I fully accept that this does not excuse the form of expression I used in the meeting with Mr Mitchell and I apologise for that accordingly.’ They both also said they hoped this row would be concluded soon.
The only impressive thing about this session was that both men stuck so rigidly to the line that they seem to have agreed on. Jones in particular did not do his profession a great service, with Vaz telling him at one point that he wanted to get the facts right on the number of complaints made against him so that he didn’t have to come back before the committee yet again to explain himself. Then he apologised to the committee for inadvertently misleading it because he’d misunderstood a question. Keith Vaz was magnificent today, grilling and drilling until each witness looked rather uncomfortable.
But what is impressive is that an incident at the Downing Street gates that lasted less than a minute has spun out into a lengthy row that undermines the integrity of the police force. Which has an irony to it, given the ‘Plebgate’ row was all about the integrity of a Cabinet minister.