Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cyclist fails proficiency test in Downing Street

Normally when the words "Mitchell" and "foul-mouthed rant" appear in the same paragraph in a tabloid newspaper, it's about a scene from Eastenders. But this time it's not fictional Phil or Grant, it's Andrew, who in real life is the government's chief whip. Of course, it's his job to rant and rave at misbehaving back-benchers, so no doubt he has the Malcolm Tucker swearing lexicon in his jacket pocket. But he appears to have picked the wrong targets for his wrath if police notes of his altercation with two diplomatic protection officers at the gates of Downing Street turn out to be true. His timing could hardly be worse, in the same week that the Prime Minister was in Manchester expressing his sympathy for the murder of two women police officers.

It remains to be seen exactly what Mr Mitchell said, but as things stand, the evidence looks pretty damning. According to the head of the Metropolitan Police Federation, John Tully, the notes taken shortly by two police officers after the incident agree that the words "f***ing plebs" were used during Mr Mitchell's tirade, as well as the word "morons". 

There can be no excuse for treating police officers in the manner that has been reported. Had Mr Mitchell been a member of the public using the same language on a street corner to a police officer, there is a distinct possibility he would be spending a night in the cells. Surely a government official should behave with even greater respect to someone who would literally put his life on the line to protect him.

Mr Mitchell is reported to have apologised to at least one of the officers, though apparently over the phone rather than in person. I suspect he will have to go a lot further if he is to save his position in the government. In fact, I will be very surprised if he is still chief whip on Monday morning.

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