Chief whip fails to defuse police 
row over rant

Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell has failed to silence calls for his resignation after a meeting with police did nothing to resolve the dispute over his foul-mouthed rant at officers.

The chairman of the West Mercia Police Federation, Ken Mackaill, said the politician had “no option but to resign” after refusing to give details of exactly what he said in his tirade in Downing Street last month.

“He is continuing to refuse to elaborate on what happened and I think his position is untenable,” Mr Mackaill said as he emerged from the 45-minute meeting in Mr Mitchell’s Sutton Coldfield constituency yesterday.

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While he had given a “profound apology” for his altercation over a refusal to allow him to cycle through Downing Street’s main gate, Mr Mitchell continued to dispute the officers’ report that he called them “plebs”, Mr Mackaill said.

“He refused to tell us what he did say on the grounds he did not want to impugn police officers’ integrity and start, I quote the word, a ‘firefight’ with police.

“Unfortunately that is exactly what happened: the question of integrity remains unresolved.”

Mr Mackaill, who was accompanied at the meeting by the secretaries of the West Midlands and Warwickshire federations, said integrity was “a massive issue” among rank and file officers.

“This is about the honesty and accuracy of police records and there are implications for officers giving evidence in court, after all.

“We take the view that this is a Cabinet minister challenging the accuracy of police records and that, we think, is of interest to all police officers.”

Mr Mitchell left without making comment amid pressure on David Cameron to sack him – just weeks after appointing him to the key position in the reshuffle.

The Cabinet member did not attend the Conservative Party conference, following suggestions he did not wish to be a distraction and speculation he could yet lose his job, weeks after the initial report in The Sun.

But that failed to shift attention from the issue.

Speaking at the rear of Mr Mitchell’s constituency office, Mr Mackaill described the talks as a “wasted meeting in that we are no further down the road” but said the federation officials had appreciated the chance to put their concerns directly to the MP.

The police federation official added: “Unfortunately he’s not had anything new to tell us.

“Whilst he has repeated his – to use his words – profound apology for what he did say... he has also repeated his denial of using many of the words reported in the officer’s notes recorded at the time. I think Mr Mitchell now has no option but to resign.”

The Prime Minister has already called for a line to be drawn under the affair following Mr Mitchell’s earlier apologies and senior police figures also suggested it was time to move on.

Mr Cameron insisted what happened was wrong and must not happen again but said the officers involved had not wanted to pursue the matter further.

Rank and file officers remain angry, however, that Mr Mitchell continues to dispute the language the officers reported that he used – most controversially calling them “plebs”.

Last month, police officers wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “PC Pleb and Proud” protested outside Mr Mitchell’s constituency office demanding a full inquiry.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said yesterday the time had passed for clarifications and apologies, and called for Mr Cameron to sack him.

Labour has already raised questions over Mr Mitchell’s ability to stay in his post but stopped short of calling for his resignation or for his sacking.

“This has gone on long enough. Neither the Prime Minister nor the chief whip have proved capable of coming clean swiftly and putting this right,” Ms Cooper, the MP for Pontefract and Castleford, said. “And it is now clear no-one even in the Conservative Party has confidence in Andrew Mitchell either.

“The failure by David Cameron and Andrew Mitchell to take this incident seriously enough and to sort it out straight away means Andrew Mitchell will clearly not be able to instil respect in Parliament or beyond as chief whip, and this will just drag on and on.

“David Cameron needs to put an end to this now and remove Andrew Mitchell from his position as chief whip.”