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.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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