In normal circumstances, five Tory MPs questioning the chief whip’s position at the 1922 Committee would send Tory high command into a panic. But tonight there is relief that only five MPs spoke out against Andrew Mitchell and that more than a dozen spoke in his support. I understand that Bernard Jenkin’s intervention was particularly effective, persuading at least one MP not to speak against Mitchell.
Those present say that the mood of the room was largely in favour of the chief whip remaining in post. There’s a sense that while what he did was foolish, the issue has now been hijacked by the Police Federation and the media. Some who initially thought that he should quit now believe there’s simply no good outcome. Cutting him loose would simply embolden the government’s opponents, handing them a propaganda coup.
Mitchell’s job now is to restore relations with his colleagues. I suspect that Mitchell, who is a far subtler political operator than he’s generally given credit for, will manage to do that.