Plebgate row: top Tory warns against police 'witch-hunt'
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 26 December 2012
A senior Conservative has said there should not be a “witch-hunt” against the police over the Andrew Mitchell affair despite growing doubts about their version of the now-infamous altercation at the gates of Downing Street.
Michael Fabricant, a Conservative Party vice-chairman, has said Mr Mitchell has not emerged from the “Plebgate” controversy “smelling of roses”. He added that neither the former government Chief Whip nor the police should be “vilified” until all the facts were known.
Mr Fabricant, who resigned as a Tory whip in the September reshuffle in which Mr Mitchell became Chief Whip, challenged the version of events set out by Channel 4 News and Dispatches last week which undermined the official police log.
Mr Mitchell’s supporters argue that CCTV footage of the incident shows there was not time for him to use the words attributed to him – including calling the officers at the gates “plebs” and “morons”. But Mr Fabricant said the footage lasted 46 seconds, while the words recalled by Mr Mitchell would take only about 20 seconds to speak.
Mr Fabricant said: “The witch-hunt against Mitchell was wrong if [the] story was embellished. But the witch-hunt now against the police [is] not good … I suspect the truth is six of one and half a dozen of the other.”
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