Did the police stitch up Andrew Mitchell like a kipper? I was at a No.10 reception earlier this evening and a section of a room drained when Michael Crick’s extraordinary report about Plebgate came on Channel 4 News.The police claimed that Mitchell’s swearing shocked ‘several members of public’: CCTV footage, released by the Cabinet Office, showed there was only one onlooker (below, with his head blotted out).
This looks stranger still when you compare it to the account of supposed witness — who we now know to be a copper. He emailed John Randall, the deputy chief whip and his local MP:
‘I was with my nephew and was hoping to catch a glance of a famous politician. Other tourists standing with us were also shocked and some were even inadvertently filming the incident … I, having a keen interest in politics and the Conservative party, knew it was Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield. Imagine to our horror when we heard Mr Mitchell shout very loudly at the police officers guarding [**** bleeped out **** ] our country. He just continued to shout obscenities at the poor police officers.’
Nephew? Does the above image show any nephew — or, indeed, any tourists? Or anyone filming the incident? Or anyone else at all? The email appears to be be a concoction. Crick called up the supposed witness to confront him and he replied that he was not ‘a witness to anything’ and complained about having his ‘private email’ made public. Here’s the audio clip from Crick’s report:-
Cameron was apparently influenced by the hitherto-undisclosed ‘eyewitness’ report. But only thanks to Crick did he learn that the supposedly independent eyewitness was a policeman. Cameron is apparently livid (the Cabinet Office’s own investigation into this failed to uncover this basic point).
Mitchell has responded saying this email to his deputy was:-
‘clearly aimed to destabilise me and finish me off by sending it to the heart of government, to my deputy… I always knew that the emails were false, although extremely convincing. It has shaken my lifelong support and confidence in the police. I believe now there should be a full inquiry so we can get to the bottom of this.’
And Cameron’s communications chief, Craig Oliver, has weighed in:-
‘Any allegations that a serving police officer posed as a member of the public and fabricated evidence against a cabinet minister are exceptionally serious. It is therefore essential that the police get to the bottom of this as a matter of urgency.’
Charles Moore argued in The Spectator that the police have an not-entirely-unblemished record of notebook records. If James Forsyth and I were to smash up a pub in Westminster, we’d be arrested and separated and our stories taken down and compared instantly. And rightly so. But police have 12 hours to write their notebook reports, on which they can confer with each other. Is this system open to abuse? It is an open question but, as yet, no more than that. The police report, acquired by the Daily Telegraph, has Mitchell saying:-
‘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 members of public looked visibly shocked…’
Really? Members of the public looking shocked? Either the camera has lied, or the police have. Anyway, here’s Crick’s report:-
And a summary of the documentary:-
UPDATE: Here’s some front pages:-
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.