Downing Street considered the possibility that Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell may have been the victim of a “gigantic conspiracy” over the “plebgate” affair, David Cameron’s most senior civil servant said yesterday.
But Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, who was asked by the Prime Minister to review CCTV footage of an incident in which Mr Mitchell swore at officers guarding Downing Street last September, said it was decided not to inform police but to “let matters rest”.
The Cabinet Secretary came under fire during a hearing at the House of Commons yesterday for failing to establish exactly what had happened, with one senior MP telling him the shortcomings of his inquiry had cost a Cabinet Minister his job. Mr Cameron refused to sack the Chief Whip, but Mr Mitchell resigned in October after weeks of controversy.
Sir Jeremy told the Commons Public Administration Committee that Mr Cameron asked him to carry out a “little review” to establish whether allegations made in two emails from someone who claimed to have witnessed the argument were accurate.
The allegations, that Mr Mitchell called officers “plebs” after they refused to let him cycle through the Downing Street gates, echoed the account recorded in the police log by the officers themselves, which the Sutton Coldfield MP denies.
After viewing CCTV footage, Sir Jeremy told Mr Cameron that it disclosed “inaccuracies and inconsistencies” in the emails which meant that they could not be relied upon. But the Cabinet Secretary said that he did not ask to view the log or speak to the officers involved.