Coffee House

PMQs sketch: Andrew Mitchell needed a haircut, a feed-up, and a good cuddle. But Miliband offered no comfort.

17 October 2012

3:41 PM

17 October 2012

3:41 PM

It was a question of when not if. Today’s PMQs was always going to turn into a kangaroo inquiry into Andrew Mitchell. The man who said ‘pleb’ was in full view on the front bench but he looked as if he were sitting in the Number One dock at the Old Bailey.

Ed Miliband started by asking the PM about joblessness which – unhappily for Labour – has fallen. He attacked Cameron for failing to tackle long-term youth unemployment and Cameron countered by pointing out that the number of kids on the dole had doubled during Labour’s last two years in power. They tussled for a few moments over the statistics, quite pointlessly. It was like watching a pie-chart trying to smother a Venn diagram.

Miliband manouevred onto the real issue of the day. Mischievously, he quoted Boris Johnson, (‘the prime minister’s new best mate’), who once declared that ‘if people swear at the police they should expect to be arrested.’

The house stirred, sensing trouble. Cameron tried to kill the question by pointing out that Mitchell had ‘apologised properly and the apology has been accepted by the officer concerned.’ Miliband wasn’t having it. ‘Double standards,’ he crowed. ‘A yob ranting at the police in a city centre would be arrested. And rightly so. … So it’s a night in the cells for yobs but a night at Carlton Club for the chief whip!’


Cameron demanded to know why Miliband wasn’t asking him about deficit reduction. Some chance. By now the house was so unsettled that the Speaker had to call for silence. This always doubles the decibel level instantly. And Mitchell sat there, in his charcoal suit, quite immobile, watching his political life draining away. It was hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy. So wan, so abandoned, so helpless. The flaps of his thick grey coiffure seemed to frame his sad, pink face like a wimple. And his sparkless eyes were shadowed with the hues of some unfathomable tragedy. Poor man. He needs a hair-cut, a feed-up and a good cuddle. But Miliband wasn’t offering him any comfort. ‘His position is untenable,’ gloated the Labour leader. ‘He’s toast!’ he added, at top volume, which was rather unnecessary since Mitchell was barely a coffin’s length away from him.

The Tories responded by filling their lungs and shouting even louder at Mr Miliband but he drew strength from their protests and raised his voice above the jungle din. ‘They say I practise class war,’ he declared. ‘And they go around calling people plebs!’

The guilty man watched, and suffered, in silence. He wore the wretched air of a garden gnome whose head has just been used as a latrine by a passing golden eagle.

A jubilant Mr Miliband continued his crowd-pleasing tactic of denying any involvement in class-conflict while merrily bashing every toff in sight. ‘Everyone else loses their job but the Chief Whip keeps his.’

Cameron spotted a blunder here. That soundbite didn’t quite harmonise with the latest figures. He pounced. ‘The Labour leader wrote those questions yesterday,’ said the PM triumphantly, ‘before unemployment fell. Typical! He comes to the house when he’s written down his clever political questions. But he doesn’t know what’s happening in the real economy.’

The bout ended, noisily and unedifyingly, in a points win for Miliband. Cameron would do well to develop the charge that Miliband is merely a vessel for ‘clever political questions.’ And the Labour leader is still bursting with vitality after his conference triumph. He enjoyed himself like never before at the despatch-box. He’s even taking to dancing a little, like Ali, when things go well.

The Pleb-Sayer himself will soon be carried out in a casket. Like today’s session, it’s a question of when not if.

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Show comments
  • Fergus Pickering

    I worried about this for a minute until I saw it was only Lloyd Evans. Mitchell can rest easy. Evans is never right.

  • Will Honeycomb

    I’d prefer developing the charge that Miliband is merely a vassal- a task for Mitchell, perhaps?

  • sunnydayrider

    Not defending Mitchell’s outburst for a second but, at a time when the police in general have little repect from the public and are under investigation everywhere, Hillsborough, The Met (take your pick with them), Tasering a blind man in Manchester et Al. It’s difficult to understand why the Politicos totally cow-tow to them. The publuc are more symathetic to Mitchell than Red Ed might think.

  • MarilynDHunter

    “You haven’t heard the last of this.’
    ‘I’ll have your job for this.’

  • ordinary man

    if pleb is the worst thing he can call an organisation that kills unarmed people tasersblind people has chief constables who spend thousands of tax payers money on meals and in french wine warehouses change legal statements as at hillsborough then he deserves sacking

    • HooksLaw

      Thats why the police are so up for this they know they are in trouble over a range of things.
      As ever labour suck up to them and the police suck up to labour. Police federation is a closed shop after all.

  • Rockin Ron

    Good job Mitchell wasn’t carrying a white stick – he could have been tasered!

    • o yes ?


  • Slim Jim

    No, he needed a good slap about his arrogant chops. This story only confirms that there is a dearth of good leadership in this country, and the political class, red, yellow or blue, are frankly not fit for purpose these days. We don’t need new parties, public funding or anything else like that. We need good, responsible and capable people to stand up for us. Where did they go?

    • HooksLaw

      No there are a dearth of sensible policemen and a voluble column of police trade unionists.
      By any stretch of the imagination our police are useless and obsessed with persecuting innocent motorists rather than catching criminals.

  • toco10

    Red Ed knows all about swearing having been the dysfunctional Gordon Brown’s bag carrier for some ten years.Perhaps Red Ed should just tell us whether he derived benefit from expensive tax advice to ensure he didn’t pay his fair share in terms of Inheritance Tax-all perfectly legal I am sure but when it comes to double standards he may have tripped himself up yet again.

    • HooksLaw

      The chief secretary had to take brown to task for abusing his employees.

    • Sarge

      Well,today was a landmark. Milliwit did not demand an enquiry. I disagree with him on this occasion, If details of police operational logs have been seen by him and the media, perhaps we could have an investigation into how that happened?

      Or does Milliwit see breaches of security as acceptable if they permit him to score political points?
      And they call him ‘Leader’….

  • RKing

    What a non story this is.
    Couldn’t give a toss about it.
    He’s apologised.
    Copper accepted apology
    Now get over it and move on…… it’s getting boring!!

    • My Own View

      If you want to write it off, that’s up to you, but you don’t have to impose your views on others. I for one think the man is lying: it would have been better had he told the truth. Its a serious matter: does the Conservative party support arrogant bullies who can insult whoever they want to – and get away with it ? If so, I won’t vote Conservative ever again. I don’t think he ever apologised.

      • RKing

        Just how do you know he is lying?
        How do you know he never told the truth?
        How do you know he’s an arrogant bully?

        I suppose you read it in the Sun so it must be true eh!

        • My Own View

          I’ve voted Conservative for the last 45 years. I have learnt that you should’n’t diregard the views of the public, I have never read the Sun. He has previously admitted,. he swore, but today in parliament he said he hadn’t. How do you know otherwise ?

          • outsideratdisqus

            @ My Own View – Don’t you think that bullying arrogance is something of a self-selecting gene for successful front line politicians of all parties? Fortunately, they are not all the same but does it not rather go with the territory? How many people who get the reference think that Flashman is an unfair nickname for David Cameron?

            • My Own View

              In my view, you have a valid, and accepatble point of view. Want to support David Cameron, but some times its difficult.

            • Fergus Pickering

              Flashman is an unfair nickname for Cameron. Cameron is not a drunk with paedophile tendencies. Unless you know something that I don’t. He IS a bit flash, however, which is why the name has stuck. But I like flash.

          • HooksLaw

            You don’t know that he was lying, you are just speculating.

            • My Own View

              One more time – he said today he hadn’t sworn at police. A few days ago, he said he had sworn at police. Square that one off,

      • Fergus Pickering

        You on’t vote Conservative EVER again because a man lost his temper at a jobsworth low level peeler. Then your vote is the vote of a fool.

        • My Own View

          You silly twisted boy.

  • DavidDP

    ” ‘A yob ranting at the police in a city centre would be arrested”
    Whereas any man in a suit briefly losing their rag during the day probably wouldn’t. Context is all.

  • Ian Walker

    I still don’t understand why Cameron didn’t have Mitchell in his office the morning after the event. Letting it fester over that weekend in the silly season was a disaster.

    • James102

      Inexperience .Remember Cameron got the job of leader because he made a good speech without notes. Like most of our political class he has no track record of success, or senior experience outside politics.
      There is no other area in which we would find it acceptable to put people in charge of large organisations, let alone countries, who have never managed as much as a whelk stall before.

      • HooksLaw

        No Davis was crap.