On October 19, the Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell resigned his post
as Chief Whip following a sustained campaign against him primarily by the tabloid press. This was the culmination of the plebgate scandal - or so we thought at the time - which was ignited by a confrontation with a police officer who was on duty at Downing Street. Like so many controversies and other incidents - including not a few murders - plebgate started over a triviality. Mr Mitchell wanted to ride his bicycle through the main gate, but the man on guard had other ideas. Words were exchanged, including the dreaded F word by Mr Mitchell - a word that is used so frequently nowadays that except in rare circumstances it has all but lost its ability to shock.
It was revealed - we were led to believe - that Mr Mitchell had come close to being arrested, and had described the police as plebs. Although he admitted using the F word, Mr Mitchell protested stoically that he had ever used the word plebs, but it was there in the police log - lies always look more convincing when they are written down, especially in an official record. It has to be said that Mr Mitchell's protestations of innocence sounded evasive, but then he is a politician. Some thought he protested too much, and there was another witness. Alas, two perjured witnesses do not double the validity of the testimony, and yesterday in a truly startling development, it was revealed that this apparently independent witness was a serving police officer, and even more shocking, that he wasn't even there
Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away!
The evidence of this individual appeared only in an e-mail, and anyone with Internet access can send an e-mail purporting to be someone that person is not. Equally startling, Channel 4 have obtained the CCTV of Mr Mitchell leaving Downing Street, and it is clear that what is written in the police log is not consistent
with that CCTV footage.
If the victim of this set up had been a lesser person - one of us plebs - his goose would have been cooked, even though times have changed since Tanky Challenor
fitted up innocent members of the public in the 1960s and wriggled out of it by being found unfit to plead.
A police officer has now been arrested and bailed on suspicion of misconduct in public office, and the Commissioner, who only in October of last year saw nothing wrong with police officers lying in open court
, has vowed to get to the bottom of the matter. It seems that heads will roll, which may be some comfort to Mr Mitchell, if nothing else his political career is not yet over, and if he ever does again achieve high office, he will take a much less rosy coloured view of the police than by his own admission he did before.