In the summer of 2011 I was fortunate enough to land a one-week work experience placement with a government minister. It was Andrew Mitchell. It is no surprise, then, that I have been keeping a keen eye on the newspapers this past week as ‘Gategate’ continues to make the headlines.
It only took a few conversations with the then International Development Secretary for me to realise that his compassionate approach towards aid was genuine. There were no cameras or microphones present as Mitchell told me of the desperate situation he had encountered the previous month in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa. Upon hearing that I am of Bangladeshi origin, Mitchell proudly told me that DfID were setting up a project to help over one million Bangladeshi women give birth safely with the help of skilled carers. Despite his dissenting Tory colleagues, I was in no doubt that Mitchell would do everything in his power to ensure the international development budget was untouched.
Beyond DfID, I also travelled with Mr Mitchell to his constituency in Sutton Coldfield. Whether we were meeting Conservative councillors or constituents who worked in the local chippy, Mitchell was very keen to let people know who I was. ‘This is Rayhan. He’s doing work experience with me thanks to the Social Mobility Foundation.’ Mitchell is very fond of the SMF, a charity which helps those from low income backgrounds break into competitive professions like politics and medicine.
None of Mitchell’s actions were PR stunts. There were far too few people present for that to have been the case. Many feel that his altercation with police officers revealed the Chief Whip’s ‘true colours’. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I do not condone what Mitchell said – no one does – but from my own experience, I think the media image of him as an arrogant Tory toff who looks down on the rest of us plebs is simply not justified.
Rayhan Uddin is currently completing work experience at The Spectator.Tags: Andrew Mitchell, Conservatives, UK politics