Andrew Mitchell inflamed the row over his clash with Downing Street police today by denying calling them “plebs” and claiming the whole episode had been “blown out of all proportion”.
In an interview a week after conflicting accounts first emerged of his altercation with the officers, the Government Chief Whip also sought sympathy, saying it had been a difficult time for his family.
David Cameron acknowledged today that the affair had been harmful, but sought again to draw a line under the controversy.
Interviewed during a visit to Brazil, the Prime Minister said: "Of course it's been damaging, that's why it is right that he apologised and apologised profusely. This must never happen again.
"But on the basis that he has apologised and the basis that the police have said they are not taking this further, I think we should let matters rest there."
However, in an interview with his local newspaper, Mr Mitchell again contradicted the police account of the abuse he directed at officers who refused to let him cycle out of Downing Street's main gates. According to the official police log, he repeatedly swore at them and called them "f****** plebs".
Mr Mitchell told the Sutton Coldfield Observer: "Although I did not use the specific words that have been suggested, I do accept that I did not treat the police with the respect they deserve.
"It's been extremely difficult both for me and my family. I have apologised and said that I am extremely sorry. I think most people who know me know I would not use words like 'pleb' or 'moron' in describing anyone. I would gently point out that I did not say the words that have been ascribed to me."
He said: "I am extremely sorry about the embarrassment caused. I feel the incident has been blown out of all proportion by the national media. I have apologised and I hope it's possible to draw a line under it
"I hope my constituents and friends in Sutton Coldfield will not recognise the hideous caricature that has been portrayed in some of the tabloid press."Reuse content