Today saw the reinvigoration of the row over whether or not the former Government Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell MP, did or did not call the two police officers who asked him to take his bicycle through the pedestrian gate from Downing Street rather than have the main gates opened to stage his exit more impressively ‘f***ing plebs’.
A third officer who had apparently offered a witness statement to support the allegations of this use of language made by the duty officers on the evening in question.
That officer is said now neither to have been on duty nor even in Downing Street at the time.
Mitchell is demanding a full enquiry and warming to the ‘I wus stitched up, guv’ routine.
If the arrested officer did indeed concoct his evidence, he has been worse than foolish.
He has added to the public impression – fuelled by the recent revelations about the conduct of the police over the enquiry into the Hillsborough football tragedy – that the police force itself does not walk a straight line.
But that does not mean that the two duty officers are wrong or false in claiming that ‘f***ing plebs’ is what Mr Mitchell said to them when he lost his temper.
The key thing is that word ‘pleb’ – not just because it is politically destructive for a Conservative MP to use it against police officers; but because it is not a word remotely in common usage today, therefore two police officers would be unlikely to invent its use.
Moreover, some who know MR Mitchell have, earlier in this schemozzle, told the press that ‘pleb’ is a dismissive word he is known to use. It is part of his familiar vocabulary.
In the heat of the uproar and before his forced resignation, it was notable that Mr Mitchell’s way of denying what he had said was the rather distanced: ‘I did not say the words attributed to me’.
This has a shed load of wriggle room.
Michell did not claim: ‘I did not say any of the words attributed to me’. Which leaves open questions as to which specific words attributed to him he did not say? Neat.
There is an unpleasant vindictiveness by the state in what is now going on; and there is a nasty opportunism in Mitchell’s immediate turn to aggression.