THE Tory party’s chief whip is facing calls to quit after police insisted reported details of an abusive rant he made at an officer at Downing Street were accurate.
Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield, is accused of shouting “learn your f****** place” and calling officers “plebs” after being stopped from cycling out of Downing Street’s main gates.
Although the former shadow police minister has apologised for not treating the police with proper respect, he has denied using some of the language, first reported by The Sun newspaper.
Labour MPs said Mr Mitchell was either accusing the member of Scotland Yard’s Diplomatic Protection Group, SO6, of lying or he must have used the foul language, which is potentially an arrestable offence.
John Tully, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said: “He should resign.
“As a cabinet minister it’s unacceptable for someone of his standing to use such disrespectful and abusive language to a police constable, let alone anyone else.”
Mr Mitchell made a personal apology to the officer involved by telephone yesterday as he tried to limit the damage from the episode.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said the officer had accepted Mr Mitchell’s apology and no formal complaint has been filed over the politician’s behaviour.
The MP reportedly pulled out of a speaking engagement in Reading as news of the row broke.
Mr Tully said last night that Mr Mitchell had been warned by officers at the time and was likely to have been arrested had he continued.
David Cameron dodged questions about whether he planned to sack Mr Mitchell and condemned his behaviour as “wrong” and “inappropriate”.
The Prime Minister appeared tense when asked about the outburst during a visit to Greater Manchester Police Headquarters to pay his respects to murdered PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
He added: “It was wrong and it is right that he has apologised. He has obviously apologised to me, but more importantly he has apologised thoroughly to the police and that needed to be done.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, Labour MP for Pontefract and Castleford, dubbed the reported outburst an “utter disgrace”, and questioned how Mr Mitchell could do the job of chief whip if he could not keep his temper in check.
“These are appalling reports,” Ms Cooper said. “No one should treat police officers or public servants in this way.”
Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit denounced the comments as “extraordinarily stupid” and urged Mr Cameron to have a “heart-to-heart talk” with his new chief whip, while Mayor of London Boris Johnson was said to be “deeply unimpressed”.
Asked if Mr Johnson stood by comments he made last year that people who swear at police should expect to be arrested, the Mayor’s official spokesman said: “Yes, he does.”
Mr Mitchell, who was a minister under John Major in the early 1990s, has apologised in a statement, saying; “On Wednesday night I attempted to leave Downing Street via the main gate, something I have been allowed to do many times before.
“I was told that I was not allowed to leave that way. While I do not accept that I used any of the words that have been reported, I accept I did not treat the police with the respect they deserve.
“I have seen the supervising sergeant and apologised, and will also apologise to the police officer involved.”
Senior Tory backbencher David Ruffley defended his parliamentary colleague.
“I have known Andrew Mitchell since he became shadow police minister, a post I subsequently held, so I can attest to the fact that he has the highest regard for the police service of this country,” he said. “Nothing that may have occurred this week should affect his well-deserved reputation for being on the side of policemen and policewomen.”
Earlier this year Scotland Yard commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said there “were still opportunities” to arrest members of the public for swearing at police despite a judge ruling it is not a crime.