Mitchell urged to quit before Commons return
CHIEF Whip Andrew Mitchell faced renewed calls for his resignation yesterday after police representatives in his constituency described his position as “untenable” and urged him to stand down over.
Mitchell met with representatives of West Mercia police on Friday in an attempt to draw a line under the ongoing row over claims that he swore at officers in Downing Street and called them “plebs”.
After the meeting in the MP’s Sutton Coldfield constituency, the chairman of the West Mercia federation, Ken Mackaill, accused the senior politician of questioning police integrity.
Though Mitchell admits swearing when he was refused access through the Downing Street gates on his bicycle, and has apologised personally to the officer involved, he denies calling the officers who bore the brunt of his outburst “plebs”.
That is at odds with the officer’s written log of the outburst.
“He refused to tell us what he did say on the grounds he did not want to impugn police officers’ integrity,” Mackaill said following the 45-minute talks with three local federations.
“Unfortunately that is exactly what happened: the question of integrity remains unresolved. He is continuing to refuse to elaborate on what happened and I think his position is untenable. ”
Yesterday Labour renewed demands on Prime Minister David Cameron to sack Mitchell after the meeting to “clear the air” ended badly.
But Defence Secretary Philip Hammond rallied to his Cabinet colleague’s defence, accusing the Police Federation of trying to “hijack” the row to bring up other issues and grievances with the government.
And a Tory source insisted that Friday’s meeting had changed nothing, saying Mitchell “fully intends to be at his desk doing the job he is paid to do on Monday morning”.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper seized on the continued dispute to keep up calls for Mitchell to go: “David Cameron is the only person left still backing Andrew Mitchell. How long is the Prime Minister going to let this drag on?” she said.
“The drawn-out saga of half-apology and oblique denial has left a cloud hanging over the government’s attitude to public servants. It is now very hard for the Chief Whip to command respect in Parliament or beyond.”
She added: “He needs to end this now and make Andrew Mitchell stand down as Chief Whip straight away.”
Hammond, though, quizzed about the row on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions, said: “We’ve now got other people who were not involved in the incident who seem to be trying to hijack this issue now and take it forward for their own purposes.”
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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