Andrew Mitchell's outburst at police officers 'toxic for Tories'
Chief Whip denies calling police 'f***ing plebs' but he has nevertheless revived the sense of class divide
CHIEF WHIP Andrew Mitchell has been accused of setting back David Cameron's efforts to dispel the "posh-boys" caricature of Tories after losing his temper with police officers on Downing Street.
The millionaire minister has been accused of calling officers "f***ing plebs" after they refused – for security reasons – to open the street's famous gates and let him pedal his bike out.
The newly-promoted Tory lost his temper on Wednesday when police asked him to instead go through a side gate used by all pedestrians.
One PC claimed Mitchell had said: "Best you learn your f***ing place. You don't run this f***ing government. You're f***ing plebs."
Mitchell is alleged to have put on his best 'don't you know who I am' act. According to The Sun, an eyewitness said Mitchell branded the officers "morons" and another reported Mitchell as saying: "Open this gate, I'm the Chief Whip. I'm telling you - I'm the Chief Whip and I'm coming through these gates."
Despite his fury, the officers refused to budge and warned him that he would be arrested under the Public Order Act if he continued to abuse them.
The Prime Minister was informed and has reportedly given Mitchell a severe dressing down. A senior No. 10 source said last night: "The PM has made it clear he expects the police to be treated with respect at all times."
Mitchell has since apologised but has denied the quotes attributed to him. "While I do not accept that I used the words that have been reported, I accept I did not treat the police with the respect they deserve," he said. "I have seen the supervising sergeant and apologised and will also apologise to the police officer involved."
The incident came just one day after the high-profile deaths of two police officers in Manchester.
Mitchell "could not have chosen a worse moment", said Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun's political editor. "The murders of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes have left Britain's Thin Blue Line feeling very vulnerable. That is on top of a deep resentment over redundancies and pension cuts," he added.
Indeed, the Police Superintendents Association tweeted: "The words of Andrew Mitchell will be indelibly etched on the memory of police officers at this poignant time."
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said it was "hard to fathom how someone who holds the police in such contempt could be allowed to hold a public office".
One police officer tweeted: "In the week two brave cops lose their lives serving the public, cabinet chief whip Mitchell calls police 'plebs'. How out of touch are they?"
While another wrote: "Great, the person who will make MPs vote away our pensions thinks police are plebs."
Richard Murphy, an economist and author, suggested it was a "Romney moment". While, Mark Ferguson, editor of LabourList described the incident as "awful for the Tories". He added: "Posh minister in class based attack on police? Doesn't get much worse…"
Even if Mitchell didn’t call the copper a ‘pleb’, the behaviour he displayed is "toxic enough" because it revives all the accusations of "toffs, chums and posh boys in charge that Mr Cameron is so anxious to dispel", said The Daily Telegraph's deputy editor Benedict Brogan.
"In that one moment of temper, Mr Mitchell justified a caricature that remains toxic for the Tories: that they are led by arrogant, rich, poncey men with an acute sense of entitlement, and not v nice to boot."