We mustn't forget what plebgate is really about

Share
Related Topics

That PC Keith Wallis has admitted falsely claiming to have witnessed a row between the then-Tory chief whipAndrew Mitchell and police in Downing Street in 2012 does not help resolve what happened.

For the benefit of Martians, Mitchell had an exchange with a police officer in Downing Street when the police refused to open the gates to allow him to ride out on his bicycle. Mitchell accepts using the "F-word" in front of the police. Whether directed at the police officer or not, it was conduct unbecoming a chief whip, who is responsible for discipline within government ranks. It was behaviour for which he apologised soon afterwards.

What Mitchell vehemently denies is that he called the police plebs. The police officer concerned, PC Toby Rowland, who is not facing any misconduct charges, is suing Mitchell for libel for calling him a liar. While this may be an unusual step for a police officer to take, it is not often that a senior politician questions a police officer's integrity on the front page of national newspapers.

There is a series of possible explanations for PC Wallis's actions, including that implied by the fact that his case has been adjourned for psychiatric reports. For an offence under the Public Order Act to be committed, someone has to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. The courts have held that experienced police officers are unlikely to be affected by someone swearing. Perhaps that is the why PC Wallis pretended to be an outraged member of the public.

Why did PC Wallis send this fictional account to his MP? Ever since the Tories got back into power, they have been engaged in a programme of radical reform of the police, including changes to police pensions. Officers who thought they were two-thirds of the way through their service suddenly found they were only half way, as it now takes 40 years to qualify for a full pension. The Police Federation had thwarted previous attacks on police pay and conditions but not this time.

Rank-and-file officers felt let down by their own staff association and betrayed by the Tories, traditionally their supporters. One of Margaret Thatcher's first actions was to award the police a massive pay rise. Perhaps feeling let down, and then faced with a senior politican who lost his temper, this proof, as PC Wallis saw it, that the Tories really did hate the police just had to be made public.

Why should there be Tory hatred? They were certainly outraged in 2008 when one of their own MPs, Damian Green, was arrested and his office in the House of Commons searched for allegedly leaking sensitive information. Bearing in mind the recent history between the Conservatives and the police, it's understandable that some Tories think they have to watch their backs. As for the rest of us, I do not think our trust in the police should be unduly shaken by plebgate.

Lord Paddick served with the Met for more than 30 years. He has donated his fee for this article to this paper's charity appeal

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Teaching Assistants needed in Wigan

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you an...

Biology Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Biology Teacher for fixed term contrac...

LSA - HLTA in SEN - PRU

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Luton: SECONDARY PRU / SEN / LSA experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Ed Miliband is so scared of becoming Tony Blair he has forgotten how to communicate

Lance Price
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments