Why is 'Plebgate' probe dragging on after a year?
Former DPP and Lib Dem peer Ken Macdonald says police are afraid to release Andrew Mitchell report
LIB DEM peer Ken Macdonald, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, believes the Metropolitan Police are "paralysed by fearful anticipation" of the results of the investigation into the 'Plebgate' scandal. He writes in The Times the Met are facing an oncoming "storm" and are "blinded like rabbits".
Plebgate, which kicked off exactly one year ago tomorrow, seemed open and shut at first. Andrew Mitchell, the Tory chief whip, admitted swearing at police officers who wouldn't let him ride through the Downing Street security gates into Whitehall on his bicycle - and the police accepted his apology.
But then the press - and the Police Federation - latched onto the allegation that Mitchell had called officers 'plebs'. This was too much: David Cameron distanced himself from his colleague and - after a month - the Sutton Coldfield MP resigned as chief whip.
While he admitted swearing, Mitchell denied using the word 'pleb'. Then it emerged that a "member of the public" who had written a first-hand account of the incident, claiming tourists had seen Mitchell's outburst, was a police officer.
Worse, it seemed he might not actually have been in Downing Street at all. CCTV footage showed that no members of the public were on hand to hear Mitchell's 'tirade'.
The Met quickly announced an investigation - Operation Alice - though its chief, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, declared he was sure his officers were telling the truth.
In the subsequent year, several arrests have been made and a report has been submitted by the Met to the Crown Prosecution Service but rejected because its evidence was "incomplete".
Now MPs and others are asking why Operation Alice has taken so long. Last week, Keith Vaz, the Labour chair of the Home Affairs Committee, wrote to Hogan-Howe asking for an explanation, The Times reported.
Writing in The Guardian, Labour MP Chris Mullin asked the same question, saying the issues the investigation needed to resolve were "simple enough". He added: "Somewhere at the back of this lies the Police Federation, a mighty vested interest with a long track record of defending the indefensible."
Now Macdonald offers his "suspicion": the police are "paralysed" with fear. He writes: "With several police officers now arrested … the stakes could hardly be higher.
"If it turns out that the career-killing use of 'pleb', that lethal, single-syllabled Exocet, was fabricated, as Mr Mitchell has always claimed, it will be certain that the missile is heading straight for
the heart of the Metropolitan Police."
As for Mitchell, in May he sold the bike at the centre of the row in an eBay charity auction, saying with its distinctive basket it had become too recognisable. The Reflex Wesminster sit-up-and-beg fetched £10,600 for an Aids charity.
Mitchell continues his constituency work. The beginning of September saw the MP enjoying the annual beekeepers' barbecue in Sutton Park, discussing the decline of the British honey bee over a burger.
It's not quite gardening leave - but far from the ministerial high-flyer he used to be. ·