Sunday 19 November 2017

British Government chief whip Andrew Mitchell resigns

Robert Winnett

ANDREW Mitchell, the British Government’s chief whip, finally resigned on Friday night - but still denied calling Downing Street police "plebs".

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Mitchell admitted swearing at officers when he told them: “I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us”.

However, he continued to strongly deny calling the police “plebs” or “morons” but accepted that he was no longer “able to fulfil my duties”.

The announcement came a month after the chief whip was involved in an angry confrontation with Downing Street police officers which has led to him being openly mocked by his colleagues.

Mr Mitchell’s departure from the Government will spark a mini reshuffle – just weeks after Mr Cameron promoted Mr Mitchell in a shake-up of the Cabinet in September. It threatens to call into question the Prime Minister’s judgement in staunchly defending Mr Mitchell for several weeks.

The chief whip, who is responsible for enforcing Conservative Party discipline in the Commons, is understood to have considered his position after being openly criticised at a meeting of Conservative MPs on Wednesday evening.

Mr Mitchell waited for David Cameron to return from Brussels last night before resigning in a face-to-face meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s official country residence.

In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Mitchell said: “Over the last two days it has become clear to me that whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter I will not be able to fulfil my duties as we would both wish. Nor is it fair to continue to put my family and colleagues through this upsetting and damaging publicity.”

The resignation calls into question Mr Cameron’s decision to publicly and repeatedly defend Mr Mitchell for several weeks after details of his outburst were leaked.

Senior ministers had privately concluded last month that the chief whip’s position was untenable as his confrontation continued to overshadow the Government’s political agenda.

In his letter accepting the chief whip’s resignation, Mr Cameron accepted that the resignation was now “necessary”.

“I regret that this has become necessary, and am very grateful for all you have done, both in Government and in Opposition,” he said. “As you have acknowledged, the incident in Downing Street was not acceptable and you were right to apologise for it.”

The incident which sparked Mr Mitchell’s resignation occurred on Wednesday September 19th, when he was attempting to cycle out of Downing Street.

An official police record of the incident, subsequently leaked to The Daily Telegraph, showed that he refused to comply with police officers, angrily swore at them and was then threatened with arrest after he called them “plebs”

The police log stated that officers had asked Mr Mitchell to dismount from his bicycle and wheel it through a pedestrian exit. However, the log then said: “There were several members of public present as is the norm opposite the pedestrian gate and as we neared it, Mr Mitchell said: 'Best you learn your f------ place…you don’t run this f------ government …you’re f------ plebs.’”

The officer noted that members of the public looked “visibly shocked” by Mr Mitchell’s language and the Chief Whip was warned that he if he continued to swear he would be arrested under the Public Order Act.

The police record notes: “Mr Mitchell was then silent and left saying 'you haven’t heard the last of this’ as he cycled off.”

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