It will be exactly one year ago on Thursday that the Chief Whip had his fateful spat with the police as he went to ride his bicycle through the pedestrian-only Downing Street gates. A month later Andrew Mitchell resigned amid claims that, worse even than shouting at the officers in question, he had also called them “plebs”. For a Tory cabinet minister, in particular, the allegation was political dynamite.
Except that Mr Mitchell, while admitting he had been disrespectful and foul-mouthed, consistently denied his use of the P-word. And CCTV footage, finally released many weeks later, recorded not only a surprisingly brief interaction given the lengthy dialogue recorded by police , but also no sign of the tourists reported as “visibly shocked” in the official log. Finally, more concerning still, the corroborative email to the Deputy Chief Whip purporting to come from a civilian witness was revealed to be a fabrication by a police officer who was not there.
All of which fully warranted the inquiry, Operation Alice, that was swiftly launched. And yet a year on from the original incident – despite the teams of police officers, the pots of public money and the multiple arrests – we are no nearer the truth.
This is not only a matter of justice for a single person. The suggestion that serving police officers lied, falsified official records and conspired to smear a cabinet minister – forcing his resignation, as it turned out – has implications far beyond the specifics of the individual case, egregious as they are.
Yet the more time that passes, the more suspicions of obfuscation are aroused. That the police have so poor a record at investigating themselves only adds to the concern. If there are reasons for the delay, it is time we were told them.