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Mitchell ‘plebs’ row rages on despite apology

Mitchell ‘plebs’ row rages on despite apology

🕔24.Sep 2012

Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell has apologised publicly for losing his temper with Downing Street police officers, but fallout from the incident is still raging on his home turf of Birmingham.

The Sutton Coldfield MP held a press call today, telling journalists that he was sorry for an ill-tempered outburst after officers said he couldn’t ride his bike through the main gate.

He denied using words reported in the Sun newspaper – that he called bobbies f***ing plebs, and told them to know their place – but did not elaborate on what he did say.

The Sun hit back, claiming to have seen a  transcript of Mr Mitchell’s remarks that showed the MP did use the word “plebs” and swore repeatedly at officers.

Meanwhile, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Bob Jones, made a further attempt to embarrass his Conservative opponent, Matt Bennett, over the saga.

Coun Jones called on Mr Bennett to explain “whose side you are on” and whether he supported widespread police dismay at the incident, or whether he backed Mr Mitchell.

In a second letter to Mr Bennett this week, Coun Jones said he was giving the Tory candidate a chance to correct his “weak” response to his first letter, which resulted in Mr Bennett defending Mr Mitchell as “only human” and dismissing the Downing Street tirade as a “moment of anger”.

Coun Jones said in the letter: “I found your response disturbing since you seem to excuse Mr. Mitchell. This is not an acceptable answer from someone who hopes to lead the police in the West Midlands.

“However, I understand that in your haste to reply to me you may have confused your loyalties between the Police and Andrew Mitchell.

“I am therefore writing to give you a second chance to make clear whose side you are on?

“So, can you please give me your considered response to the question whether you back Andrew Mitchell or the police?”

Labour upped the stakes by finding a former police officer to condemn Mr Mitchell.

Retired Wolverhampton bobbie Andy Hayburn said: “Andrew Mitchell may have said something in a moment of anger.  I arrested loads of people when that happened.

“Mr Mitchell is arrogant and out of touch by persisting with the implication that the Downing Street police officers are liars.  As a former police officer I was accountable to the public for my actions, he should be brought to account for his.”

The topic of what Mr Mitchell did and did not say to the Downing Street police seems likely to dominate a key police commissioner hustings meeting tomorrow organised by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Most of the PCC candidates, including Mr Jones and Mr Bennett, will be present.

Downing Street is continuing to resist calls for an inquiry into the Mitchell affair.

David Cameron’s official spokesman said the Prime Minister believes that Mr Mitchell had done the right thing in apologising, and thinks a line should now be drawn under the affair.

But a senior Police Federation representative said Mr Mitchell was effectively accusing the officers involved of lying and called on Mr Cameron to hold an investigation.


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