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.

Getty
Show Hide image

Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.