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16 October 2013updated 07 Sep 2021 11:55am

Andrew Mitchell’s Plebgate: what the bloody hell actually happened?

Willard Foxton breaks down the most difficult-to-follow political story of last year.

By Willard Foxton

Plebgate was a simple story. A nasty Tory called some diligent, hard working coppers “plebs”, and was forced to resign over it. 

However, it turns out that some of that initial story was, as they say in the trade, total bollocks, and the whole thing has now become a twisty, torturous maze. It seems worth breaking the whole thing down and trying to work out what we really know:

  • The Right Hon Andrew Mitchell MP admits being a boor to the police in Downing Street last October, but not the sort of pantomime villain who calls someone a “pleb”;
  • It now appears that the police guarding Downing Street embroidered their account of the “pleb” incident to an extent that anyone law-abiding ought to find utterly terrifying. That this is the case seems very, very obvious from the CCTV film of the incident – which shows that, contrary to the police logs, there were not “several members of the public present … [who] were “visibly shocked”. Further evidence for this is the ghastly sweaty copper who was grilled by Channel 4’s Michael Crick in the excellent Dispatches;
  • West Mercia officers then lied about what Mitchell said in a subsequent meeting with him in his constituency. In the meeting, “the officers said they ‘fully’ accepted Mr Mitchell’s account and even threatened to report their colleagues in the Metropolitan Police for lying”, according to the Daily Mail‘s report, before leaving the room and accusing Mitchell of not explaining himself and calling on him to resign. Their actions were subsequently exposed because Andrew Mitchell’s press officer had taped the conversation with them and they were too thick to notice;
  • The West Mercia and the Met also had a series of cosy chats with journalists from a popular British newspaper, leading to intense pressure on Mitchell to resign. Ironically, this happened at a time when a massive official inquiry into corrupt links between the police force and the gutter press was going on; 
  • For practically the first time in its entire history, the normally cautious IPCC has come out and said that the officers have “questions to answer about their honesty and integrity” – in layman’s terms, that they are liars – but for some reason it merely supervised inquiries by the forces in question rather than calling in the investigations itself;
  • However, the police forces which investigated their own officers have concluded that none of this warrants disciplinary action, apparently because lying, falsifying evidence, getting involved in blatant political hatchet jobs, corrupt contact with the press and being thick are par for the course.
  • As a result of the IPCC for once finding that the Rozzers were in the wrong, senior coppers and their trade union (ACPO) have demanded that the IPCC be closed

So there you have it. All the evidence suggests that the police attempted to frame a member of the cabinet, failed, got caught red-handed forging evidence and yet will suffer no penalties for it. Chilling.

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