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Bobby and Andy: ‘The unlikely lads’

Bobby and Andy: ‘The unlikely lads’

🕔19.Nov 2014

Andrew Mitchell and Sir Bob Geldof. These are not names you would generally expect to crop up in the same sentence. Andrew and Bob. Andy and Bobby, perhaps. Who knows?

An unlikely but apparently firm friendship between Boomtown Rats front man and Band Aid promoter Geldof and the Tory MP for Sutton Coldfield, former Chief Whip and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, was revealed at the High Court during the second day of the Plebgate libel trial.

In a written statement Geldof described his respect for Mitchell as a “truthful, honest and reliable man” and someone who while “no slouch” at swearing would not have used the “ridiculous and archaic expression pleb” while attempting to exit the Downing Street security gates on his bike.

The background of the pair could hardly be more different.

Mitchell, whose family owned the El Vino wine bar, haunt of Fleet Street’s finest for decades, was educated at Rugby School and Cambridge University. Geldof, who hails from impoverished working class Catholic stock in Ireland, is what might be termed a self-made millionaire with an honorary knighthood from the Queen in recognition of his fight against famine in Africa.

Mitchell appears to have earned Geldof’s respect for the determined, and successful, fight he put up when International Development Secretary to defend the UK’s foreign aid budget – something that did not make the MP popular with some Tory MPs. Mitchell also led Conservative activists in social development projects in Rwanda for a number of years.

Geldof told the court: “I came from a poor, Irish, not particularly well-educated background and he does not. I am in fact a pleb and he is not.”

The pop star’s statement continued: “I am used to being patronised by ‘my betters’. There was no such nonsense from Mr Mitchell. We became friends because beyond his qualities as a leader and advocate for the less fortunate; I thought he was a good man. We are an unlikely pair of friends.

“Never once in all our time did he patronise me, talk down to me, behave in a superior manner to me, deride, insult or dismiss me or my opinions. Nor did I ever find in him the preposterous pantomime patrician and frankly Wodehousian superior manner attributed to him in the Sun and others.

“He is open, frank, truthful, even when at times you wish to hear something other. I believe I have a perhaps justified reputation for swearing a bit. It has to be said that on occasion Andrew Mitchell was no slouch either. But not once in all of this time did I ever hear him use the ridiculous and archaic expression ‘pleb’!”

Mr Mitchell is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) for libel over the Plebgate incident at Downing Street in September 2012. The Sun newspaper alleged the MP, who was Chief Whip at the time, told police officers after being refused entry through a Downing Street gate on his bike: “Best you learn your f****** place … you don’t run this f****** government, you’re f****** plebs.”

Mr Mitchell, who was forced to resign from the Government following publicity over the Downing Street incident, admits losing his temper and swearing, but denies using the toxic term ‘pleb’.

Downing Street police officer Toby Rowland is suing Mr Mitchell for suggesting he made up the allegations.

High profile libel cases are notorious for delving deeply into the personalities of those who are bringing proceedings. Mr Mitchell has so far had to sit and listen to claims that he has made a habit of issuing demeaning comments at police and security staff.

Examples, all denied by the MP, include telling a security guard at the Palace of Westminster to ‘stop being so aggressive, you little s***’ when he was reprimanded for cycling through Black Rod’s Gate in 2005.

Mr Mitchell was also asked in court about an incident in Tunisia in 2011, when a member of his police protection team told him he could not cross into Libya. The MP reportedly told him: ‘That’s a bit above your pay grade, Mr Plod.’

He was said to have shouted “chop chop” to one officer opening the Downing Street gates, a comment described in court as the type of language that would have been used to a Shanghai coolie in the 1920s.

On the night before the Plebgate incident, he is said to have told Downing Street police: “I am the Government Chief Whip and I want to be allowed through the vehicle gate.”

Mr Mitchell said he could not recall any of these outbursts.

Under cross examination, Mr Mitchell said: “I do not deny I have a temper sometimes, but I do deny I am quick to lose it.

“I am capable of using bad language, I use it too much. I also admit that I can sometimes be impatient and short-tempered when I consider I am being prevented from going about my legitimate business.

“I even admit that I can be, or at least that I can appear to be, rude on these occasions.

“To the best of my recollection, I have never called anybody a pleb, let alone a policeman.

“Since the incident I have thought long and hard about this and cannot recall a single instance when I have called anybody a pleb. It just isn’t a word I use.”

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