Tories defend under-fire Andrew Mitchell


Labour MPs today attempted to pile the pressure on embattled Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell amid renewed demands for him to be sacked over his row with Downing Street police.

Shadow leader of the House of Commons Angela Eagle claimed Mr Mitchell kept "changing his story" and challenged him to divulge to MPs "what he actually did say".

Andrew Lansley defended Mr Mitchell in the Commons from a flurry of remarks from the Opposition benches relating to Mr Mitchell's confrontation with officers, saying he was "doing his job well".

Yesterday, Labour leader Ed Miliband used the first Prime Minister's Questions since the incident last month to denounce Mr Mitchell, saying he should have been arrested like any other "yob" who had sworn at officers.

And at last night's weekly meeting of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee at Westminster, four Tory MPs were said to have voiced concerns about Mr Mitchell's position.

Speaking today at the start of Commons Business questions, when Mr Mitchell was absent from the chamber, Ms Eagle said: "As the Leader of the House has already announced, next week there'll be an Opposition day debate on the police.

"There's a long standing convention that the chief whip in this House is seen, but not heard. The current Government Chief Whip who is inexplicably not in his place today, would be well advised to observe that convention outside this House too."

"We know the police's account, they report the Chief Whip saying that police officers were 'plebs, who should know their place', now I've missed out the expletives. Mr Speaker.

"The Chief Whip keeps changing his story and I would have wanted to say to him, had he had the courtesy of this House to attend today, that he should come to the despatch box and tell the House what he actually did say, but perhaps he's too busy repairing relations with the Conservative backbenchers to bother to attend Business questions."

Leader of the House of Commons Mr Lansley replied: "The Chief Whip is doing his job well ... the Chief Whip knows and made clear that he had made a mistake, he apologised for that, The police officer concerned accepted it and the Metropolitan Police accepted it.

"I will take no lectures today or indeed next Wednesday when the Opposition day debate on the police takes place about the support this Government gives to the police."

To laughs from the Opposition benches, Labour's Clive Efford (Eltham) asked: "Can we have a debate on the place of plebs in society?

"The worst aspect of what the Chief Whip said to those police officers was that they should know their place and a debate like this would give him the opportunity to actually get up on his feet and give us the truth about what happened, but also give those of us who consider themselves to be plebs an opportunity to know just exactly what our place is."

Mr Lansley accused Labour of attempting to "make political capital" from the debacle.

He replied: "It's all very well trying to make political capital on the opposite side, but, actually, from our point of view, we support the police and we are getting on with that job and the Chief Whip is getting on with that job and doing a grand job doing it."

Part way through Business questions, Mr Mitchell walked into the chamber and took his place on the frontbench while appearing to chew.

Labour's Ian Mearns (Gateshead) said this year in Manchester two people had been arrested, charged, prosecuted and imprisoned for abusing police officers and in South Shields an arrest had taken place for a similar offence.

He said: "Can we have a debate on policing, prosecutions and sentencing as a matter of urgency I think it is very topical."

Mr Lansley maintained the matter was "frankly closed weeks ago".

He said: "Members of the public watching our questions and discussions might wonder whether it actually wouldn't be better for Members to devote themselves to the interests of their constituents and new issues, rather than constantly trying to contrive new ways of returning to an issue that frankly was closed weeks ago."

The police debate will give Labour MPs the opportunity to again raise Mr Mitchell's actions, although it is not expected that the motion will be focused on the Chief Whip.

Labour's Simon Danczuk has tabled a Commons motion calling for Mr Mitchell to have his pay docked by £1,000, the traditional method of forcing a vote of no confidence and also roughly equivalent to the amount he could be fined for swearing at police.

But a senior party source said this was not expected to be the motion chosen for the debate.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr Danczuk (Rochdale) asked if the issue was "surely worthy of debate".

Mr Lansley said it was "interesting" that so far there had been no request from Labour for a debate on employment.

Labour's Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) said that for "several weeks now the Chief Whip has struggled to answer questions about what exactly he said outside Downing Street.

"Is it time for a ministerial statement on ministerial answers?"

Mr Lansley responded: "No".

Raising a point of order at the end of the session, Labour's Wayne David (Caerphilly) said: "Given that the Chief Whip has been chewing for most of this session, is it appropriate for masticating to be allowed in the chamber?"

His query again drew laughs from the Labour benches.

Commons Speaker John Bercow replied: "I won't go into that. I would only say quite a lot of noise has been heard in the course of the last hour, but the Government Chief Whip has been as quiet as a church mouse."


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot