Whipped-up hysteria more than Mitchell deserved

The moment when he supposedly called a policeman "pleb" wasn't recorded by any particularly reliable source

Share
Related Topics

I feel I have to begin this column by saying I have no partisan feelings towards Andrew Mitchell. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have never encountered Mr Mitchell, although if only half of what has been written about him is true, I am pretty certain we wouldn't get on. Nevertheless, I'd like to come to his defence. I know it is unfashionable position, but I believe he is a victim of an age when nuance and reason has been lost and the only reaction to questionable behaviour is public hysteria.

The case of Mr Mitchell and PC Pleb is a curious one. How do we know about it in the first place? Was it recorded on CCTV? Was there an independent witness who is prepared to verify who said what to whom? No, we know about the incident in which he is alleged to have called a policeman a "pleb" through a much more authoritative route; one that for many years has ensured such information has become public. A member of the Metropolitan Police force, no doubt using a speed dial, called the newsdesk of The Sun to report exactly what happened when the Conservative Chief Whip was asked to dismount his bike.

We should be thankful that, as well as keeping the capital's streets safe, the police feel it is their duty to bring to the attention of as many citizens as possible the errant behaviour of our elected representatives. That, surely, is why the policeman in question rang Britain's biggest selling newspaper, bravely overcoming any residual concerns about the closeness between News International and the Met that had been exposed during the phone-hacking scandal.

And I'm sure, too, that the report wasn't embellished. Of course no money changed hands, since that would be illegal. All I know is that Andrew Mitchell, in his resignation letter to the PM, maintained his position that he did not use the word "pleb" or "moron" or "any other perjorative descriptions" although he admits swearing.

Even in the circs, after a hard day's whipping, this is conduct unbecoming, although hardly enough to put his career in jeopardy. (And remember, also, that he was riding a bike: he wasn't sweeping past in a plutocratic ministerial Jaguar.) The full might of the Police Federation insist that he did use the P-word, and the F-word, and a few other words beside. And Mr Mitchell didn't help himself by shifting his story around.

But, in the end, it is one man's word against another. And in any case, can't we allow a politician to lose his rag (like we all have done, faced with the intransigence of officialdom) without needing to see his head on a pole? Maybe it boils down to the fact that Mr Mitchell, patrician in bearing and, by all accounts, high-handed in manner, is not a likeable chap. Not like the nice Mr Johnson. He once called the black inhabitants of Commonwealth countries "flag-waving piccaninnies" and now he's Britain's most popular politician. Mr Mitchell may have spent the weekend reflecting what Margaret Thatcher said when she stood down in 1990; words that seem even more fitting to today's politics: "It's a funny old world."

React Now

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

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories