There is more to "plebgate" arrest than "meets the eye", says Met chief

Bernard Hogan-Howe says people will be "surprised" by the full story of the arrest of a police officer.

Following the news of the arrest of a police officer on suspicion of leaking details of "plebgate" to the press, Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, has given a series of intriguing interviews. Speaking on LBC earlier today, he said that the arrest was only partly due to allegations that the officer was a whistleblower and that people would be "surprised" when they heard the full story.

I hope when people hear the full story they will understand why I've had some dilemma in talking about it today. We were quite surprised at what happened and I suspect they will be too.

He later added on BBC London:

It's an ongoing criminal investigation, and also it's now supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). I hope people understand that. And I also hope people understand that there is more to this than meets the eye. I'm afraid I'm constrained in explaining that. I hope that when people hear the full story they will support what we've done.

Significantly, Hogan-Howe also said that he stood by the original account of the officers who were on duty at the time.

"The only thing I will say is that I don't think from what I've heard up to now that it's really affected the original account of the officers at the scene because this officer we've arrested isn't one of those involved originally. This is another officer who wasn't there at the time."

This puts him at odds with Andrew Mitchell, who insisted again on Monday that the contents of the police log were "false". Much to the Tories' displeasure, it looks as if this story will run for a while yet.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe stands outside New Scotland Yard during a press call. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How the shadow cabinet forced Jeremy Corbyn not to change Labour policy on Syria air strikes

Frontbenchers made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the leader backed down. 

Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to back down once before the start of today's shadow cabinet meeting on Syria, offering Labour MPs a free vote on air strikes against Isis. By the end of the two-hour gathering, he had backed down twice.

At the start of the meeting, Corbyn's office briefed the Guardian that while he would hold a free vote, party policy would be changed to oppose military action, an attempt to claim partial victory. But shadow cabinet members, led by Andy Burnham, argued that this was "unacceptable" and an attempt to divide MPs from members. Burnham, who is not persuaded by the case for air strikes, warned that colleagues who voted against the party's proposed position would become targets for abuse, undermining the principle of a free vote. Jon Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio and NEC member, said that Labour's policy remained the motion passed by this year's conference, which was open to competing interpretations (though most believe the tests it set for military action have been met). Party policy could not be changed without going through a similarly formal process, he argued. 

When Corbyn's team suggested that the issue be resolved after the meeting, members made it clear that they "would not leave the room" until the Labour leader had backed down. By the end, only Corbyn allies Diane Abbot and Jon Trickett argued that party policy should be changed to oppose military action. John McDonnell, who has long argued for a free vote, took a more "conciliatory" approach, I'm told. It was when Hilary Benn said that he would be prepared to speak from the backbenches in the Syria debate, in order to avoid opposing party policy, that Corbyn realised he would have to give way. The Labour leader and the shadow foreign secretary will now advocate opposing positions from the frontbench when MPs meet, with Corbyn opening and Benn closing. 

The meeting had begun with members, including some who reject military action, complaining about the "discorteous" and "deplorable" manner in which the issue had been handled. As I reported last week, there was outrage when Corbyn wrote to MPs opposing air strikes without first informing the shadow cabinet. There was anger today when, at 2:07pm, seven minutes after the meeting began, some members received an update from the Guardian revealing that a free vote would be held but that party policy would be changed to oppose military action. This "farcical moment", in the words of one present (Corbyn is said to have been unaware of the briefing), only hardened shadow cabinet members' resolve to force their leader to back down - and he did. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.