According to Ken Clarke, Andrew Mitchell is apparently a “reasonable and courteous man”. I actually thought he’d made a pretty good Secretary of State for International Development (whilst still in Opposition, he visited countries throughout the developing world to establish in detail how aid could be most effectively and fairly delivered and visited a number of countries in Africa and Asia containing some of the worst poverty in the world and, when he became a Cabinet member, even Jon Snow reckoned that Mitchell was “unquestionably the best prepared Secretary of State — nobody has waited longer in the wings and everyone in the sector knows of his commitment to the sector") and so I was disappointed to learn that he’d been made Chief Whip in Cameron’s recent re-shuffle.I don’t really know an awful lot about the man, but the sad thing is that he’s yet another rather typical Tory minister (am I being a little unfair?): double millionaire; public school educated; father was a junior Conservative minister; president of the Cambridge Union; allegations of him lobbying on behalf of party donors; allegations of tax avoidance; and forged a “lucrative” career as a merchant banker… and, according to the Telegraph, Mitchell is also known for his naked ambition and earned the nickname 'Thrasher' at school!
As I’m sure you’re aware, it seems that Mitchell had a row with some police officers a few days ago. He was apparently told by them to get off his bicycle as he left Downing Street and go through the smaller pedestrian gate instead of the main entrance used by cars. He was reported in The Sun newspaper(?!) to have used foul language and told the officer at the gates to "learn your… place" and "you don't run this… government". The precise details seem a little hazy, but even Mitchell admits that he “lost it”. As The Times leader put it: “Losing your temper with a police officer is bad enough, losing your temper because you view yourself to be the social superior of that officer is contemptible”.
The police officer involved in the recent allegations might well have been a bit of a “jobsworth” for all I know. But, to my mind, whatever the circumstances (and it seems that the crux of the reported incident is correct and that Mitchell has been a little economic with the truth in his reporting of the matter to Cameron), Mitchell should resign immediately or, if he refuses, he should be sacked by the PM.
But, of course, this won’t happen… because that’s no longer the way things are done at Westminster.
PS: there is a glorious irony in all this, of course, as one of the Chief Whip’s roles is concerned with the discipline of their own party's MPs!