Presumably one of the motivations behind the decision of Police Federation members to try to discredit Andrew Mitchell was an attempt to discredit the government’s wider reforms of and cuts to the police service, which the union representing the force was at the time engaged in a bitter battle with ministers over. But oddly enough, the plotters’ misdemeanours appear to have found them out, with calls now for reform of police disciplinary procedures.
On Today, former Home Secretary Jack Straw said the Federation had shown a ‘poverty of leadership’:
‘[They] had the idea that if they embroidered the truth – and I put that mildly – then they could get the scalp of a Conservative Cabinet minister of an administration with whom they were in conflict at the time. Now, what this shows, I think, is a poverty of leadership by the Federation and a readiness by them to resort to completely inappropriate behaviour, which you would not expect of anybody but least of all police officers.’
What a strange and elegant turnaround of events. A group apparently sets out to discredit the reputation of the government that is trying to reform the police, but ends up discrediting the reputation of the police itself. The IPCC report yesterday called into question the ‘integrity’ and ‘honesty’ of the officers involved – a blow just as damaging as the original ‘pleb’ line alleged by the officers involved in the Downing Street altercation – a separate issue to the meeting held by the Police Federation with Mitchell after the allegations surfaced. The damage to reputations of whatever emerges from the ongoing investigation into that original incident could be even greater.