Profile: Andrew 'Thrasher' Mitchell the ruthless disciplinarian


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Indy Politics

In the end Andrew Mitchell simply had too many enemies and too few friends to survive.

Ever since his outburst against a Downing Street policeman a month ago Tory MPs have been regaling each other with their own "Thrasher" Mitchell stories.

Tales such as the occasion he demanded a better table in a Westminster restaurant at the expense of another MP who had reserved the spot. Or the time when, as campaign manager for David Davis's failed Tory leadership bid, he tried to browbeat rather than persuade MPs to vote for his man.

Mr Mitchell was educated at Rugby school, where he is said to have earned the nickname "thrasher" because of his "stern disciplinarian" tendencies. It was a reputation he relished.

He studied at Cambridge, before joining the Army and serving briefly as a UN peacekeeper in the 1970s. He then forged a lucrative career in banking before becoming MP for Gedling, Nottinghamshire, in 1987. He became vice-chairman of the Tory Party under John Major, and was a government whip during the notorious rebellion over the Maastricht Treaty.

He was promoted to social security minister, but lost his seat in the Labour landslide of 1997. Within four years he had made it back to Westminster, representing Sutton Coldfield.

Appointed International Development Secretary after the election in 2010 he was committed to enshrining in law an obligation on the UK to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid, a move that did not endear him to some Tory backbenchers.

Nor was he always popular with the officials he worked with. On his arrival in the department he is said to have told his Permanent Secretary that he expected male officials to wear jackets and ties at all times and to address him as "Secretary of State".

When told that, owing to the nature of the department's work, formal clothes were not always practical, he insisted that at the very least ties should be worn at meetings. Despite his diktats, Mr Mitchell himself was said to sometimes hold meetings in his office without any shoes and still wearing his bicycle clips.

Mr Mitchell's problems were compounded by the nature of the job he was promoted to in the reshuffle. As Chief Whip he was responsible for party discipline and many in his party resented being disciplined by him.

When the former whip Michael Fabricant caused mischief this week by questioning whether Mr Mitchell should survive, one wag was prompted to say: "Surely the Chief Whip should be disciplining him."