Matthew Norman on Monday: The plebgate saga has left Jon Gaunt looking rather pale

We have heard much from Andrew Mitchell - but how about Jon Gaunt?


The lead-up to Saturday’s first anniversary of Andrew Mitchell’s departure as Chief Whip, after what David Laws might regard as a marathon six-week stint, was a noisy time in the menagerie of public life. But what of the one loyal police dog in this fight who has yet to bark? While we have heard much from Mr Mitchell, the IPCC and various policemen, not so much as a half-hearted growl from Jon Gaunt.

After losing his Sun and TalkSport berths, my old friend set up the Gaunt Brothers PR consultancy with sibling Jason in Coventry. His first and apparently last high-profile clients were The Sun (which broke Plebgate) and the West Midlands Police Federation. Members of the latter were of course present at the legendary interview Mr Mitchell taped in his Sutton Coldfield constituency, and a central mystery concerns Gaunty’s take on their performance.

Instinct argues against the genius who featured Rolf Harris in his top 10 living Brits having given dodgy advice. Even so, considering that the Gaunt Brothers’ website has vanished and its Twitter account been dormant since February, he seems to have suffered collateral damage. The Home Affairs Select Committee will call various senior coppers this week. We respectfully ask chairman Keith Vaz to add Gaunty to the roster, and give this potentially important witness an overdue chance to re-establish his reputation as one of the most underrated intellects of the age.

Masterful moves at the secret  policeman’s Ball

Whatever doubts Plebgate raises over the police, let no one question the competence of Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. Ron Ball’s media appearances, lacerating the IPCC’s Deborah Glass (right) for stating the obvious after comparing Mr Mitchell’s tape with the coppers’ fanciful accounts, have been masterful. Where his distant cousin Bobby Ball might have targeted his “you little liar” catchphase at the police, the former cargo pilot’s fidelity does him credit. The notion that Ron is a sleeper implanted to do the bidding of those he nominally oversees – a secret policeman’s Ball, if you really must – is risible. Wasted on Warwickshire, he demands an arena better suited to his talents. The post of Police and Crime Commissioner of Trumpton falls vacant in the spring, and we urge him to apply.

The unforgettable Portillo

Good to see Michael Portillo in a natty maroon jacket, reviewing the Sunday papers on Dermot Murnaghan’s Sky News show. Polly is always an urbane delight, though he might have taken the chance to explain his curious performance on BBC1’s This Week, when he recalled hearing Andrew Mitchell call people “plebs” in private. The following day he withdrew the statement, insisting that he had “mis-spoke”. That is traditionally politico-speak for “told a whopper”, as pioneered by Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary season. In the absence of a Pollygraph, however, we accept that this was simply another memory lapse from a man who in 1996 entirely forgot that he was supposed to be challenging John Major for the Tory leadership.

Always a warm word for the poor

In the wake of David Cameron’s lateral-thinking counsel to those in fuel poverty to wear more jumpers, we are thrilled to introduce the occasional feature, PM’s Top Tips for the Poor.  TTP No 1 concerns bathing. “To reduce winter energy bills,” writes Mr Cameron, “permanently disengage the hot water button, and wait for a downpour. When a puddle of four inches forms in a gutter outside your home, wash in that. But don’t forget to adopt my Cornish beach strategy, and cover your modesty with a Mickey Mouse towel.” Next week, when and how best to scavenge from bins outside  KFC.

Mandy and Balls make a meal of their support

I am intrigued to read that Peter Mandelson has dined at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand with Ed Balls. The two not invariably having been besties, to put it gently, this is quite a thing (if not quite on the scale of Gordon Brown recalling Mandy from Brussels to run the country). Interrogated by text message, Mandy says he had the steak and kidney pie, but will not say what Mr Balls ate on the grounds that this was a private occasion (so we’ll guess at Beluga followed by grouse). He denies the meeting should be interpreted as a ploy to frighten Ed Miliband for whom Mandy has only the warmest words of support.

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