The Andrew Mitchell Gate-Gate story started off simply enough: politician does stupid thing, bungles apology and faces heavy pressure to quit. Add to that what I’ve heard from people who have worked with him, and it all seemed a straight forward story of a person with an unpleasant streak getting found out.
But you know what? The longer this has gone on, the more sympathy I have with him. Hard to believe, but consider two salient facts.
First, the leaking of confidential police documents (aka the statements recorded by the police, containing their version of what Andrew Mitchell said). It’s easy to see why they were leaked. Yet they were confidential documents, made by police in ultra-sensitive security roles and leaked to the press, perfectly suiting the police’s desire to see a minster go. Perhaps the leak as inadvertent, but this rather looks like public servants who should be fully trustworthy breaking the rules when it suits to argue their corner. And what’s more, public servants who are there to enforce rules on others. Not so good.
Second, there’s the Police Federation’s reaction to their meeting with Andrew Mitchell:
He has repeated, as to his words, a profound apology as to what he did say. He’s also repeated his denial of using many of the words reported in the officer’s notes recorded at the time, his explanation for that he did not want to get into a fire-fight with police or impugn the integrity of police officers.
All smoothed over, people getting on with things? Not at all. Despite all that was said in that quote I’ve given, the Police Federation have said that Andrew Mitchell (not a minister in charge of the police, remember) hasn’t done enough and must resign.
If trade unionists were demanding a Labour minister resign in such circumstances, saying an apology is not enough and the minister must do exactly what they want, it would hardly go down a storm – and, to my eyes at least – neither does this. First we’ve had the convenient leaks. Now the overbearing demands.
A minister having to resign because the police are investigating them? Fair enough. A minister having to resign because the police are trying to strong-arm them out of office? That’s a different matter. At this rate, I’m going to be launching the Save Andrew Mitchell Fan Club by the end of the week.