Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell resigns over ‘pleb’ row
ANDREW Mitchell last night bowed to mounting pressure and quit as the government’s chief whip over allegations he called a police officer a “pleb” .
• Tory chief whip resigns over ‘pleb’ furore
• Andrew Mitchell continues to deny using word ‘pleb’
• Prime Minister praises Mr Mitchell’s ‘dedication’
In a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, he said he could no longer “fulfil my duties as we would both wish”. But he again denied calling officers “plebs” after they refused to let him cycle out of Downing Street’s main gates on 19 September.
The resignation came amid rumours he had lost the backing of colleagues in the whips’ office, although back-benchers were broadly supportive at a meeting earlier this week.
In his letter, Mr Mitchell, 56, admitted it would be hard for him to keep discipline in the Tory ranks as a result of what he was perceived to have done.
“Over the last two days it has become clear to me that whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter I will not be able to fulfil my duties as we would both wish,” he wrote.
Mr Mitchell, who became chief whip on 4 September after a spell as international development secretary, is alleged to have described the police officer as “a f****** pleb” and a “moron” when he was barred from cycling out of the gate.
In his letter, Mr Mitchell admitted using the f-word but said he did not say “pleb” or “moron”.
He wrote: “I have made clear to you – and I give you my categorical assurance again – that I did not, never have and never would call a police officer a ‘pleb’ or a ‘moron’ or used any of the other pejorative descriptions attributed to me.
“The offending comment and the reason for my apology to the police was my parting remark ‘I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us’.”
In his reply, Mr Cameron said Mr Mitchell’s behaviour towards the officer had been unacceptable and he thanked him for his work in government. The Prime Minister wrote: “I regret that this has become necessary, and am very grateful for all you have done, both in government and in opposition.
“I am in no doubt that your work in the field of international development has made a really important contribution – not only to the Conservative Party, but more importantly to Britain’s standing in the world, and above all to international efforts to tackle deep and sustained poverty.
“You brought real passion to the job in opposition, which you turned into more than two years of very successful work in government.”
But Labour said Mr Cameron had been wrong not to sack Mr Mitchell immediately.
Shadow cabinet office minister Michael Dugher said: “David Cameron is left looking profoundly weak and totally out of touch, doing everything he could to hold on to Andrew Mitchell only for his chief whip to bow to the inevitable given the understandable public anger.
“There is a pattern of behaviour: an out-of-touch, high-handed government where the chief whip can insult the police as plebs and the Chancellor thinks he has a right to sit in first class without paying the fare.”
Mr Mitchell shadowed the international development post in opposition, and he was responsible for the coalition government protecting its aid budget from the austerity cuts.
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