Andrew Mitchell – keep a pinch of salt handy.

I went to a famous public school. I was a policeman. I was an adviser to the House of Commons Commission. I rode my bike in and out of the Palace of Westminster daily. Why are these facts relevant? The answer is Andrew Mitchell MP, still Chief Whip for the moment anyway. I’ll come to what he said in a jiffy, but I’ve little sympathy for the police he allegedly insulted. I know first hand how arrogant and boorish the Palace coppers can be. One accidentally sprung a steel car-barrier from the road-way as I was riding over it; sending me flying. Trying to get an apology and £70 to fix the back wheel took ages. Don’t forget that 99.9% of the time, policing the Palace is a cushy job. Coppers in rough neighbourhoods get abused regularly (I know!) so these two have no business being offended. In my day you could not offend a policeman. It needed a passer by (ideally an old lady) to be outraged before an arrest could take place – but that all changed with Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. It made mere insults an arrestable offence. Many people (me included) do not consider it for the courts to prevent hurt feelings when the real casualty is freedom of speech. Especially, the feelings of those empowered to carry guns, truncheons and tazers. I have no doubt Mitchell was rude, but what did the police do to provoke his outburst. We need to know that too. Still, what concerns me here, is if he really called them ‘plebs’ .  This is what the Sun reported him saying ‘Best you learn your f****** place. You don’t run this f****** Government. You’re f****** plebs,Why do I have a sinking feeling that he may have said nothing of the kind. Public school types, of my acquaintance anyway, don’t talk like that. To me it smacks of a pastiche of Cad Speak from a comic strip. Say it out loud in your best Bertie Wooster, Flashman, Alan B’Stard voice  and you will see what I mean. Nobody says “You’re fucking Plebs”, to a policeman, anymore than Londoners say ” its a fair cop guv, you got me bang to rights, me old china” or Irishmen say ‘Begosh and begorra, tis a lovely day, so it is, to be sure”. Unless they can provide CCTV or audio to corroborate the copper’s account – perhaps Mitchell’s used ‘plebs’ elsewhere – I’ll keep a pinch of salt handy.




About JS

John Stonborough FCIPR specialises in media relations, providing an authoritative and discreet advocacy to corporate and private clients world-wide. He specialises in handling the hostile media and media regulation. He is known for observing "An interview is no time for an original thought." He is the great-nephew of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. His working career began as a London policeman and then as a reporter for the Daily Mail, BBC Radio 4, Thames Television and Channel 4 TV. From 2001 to 2004 he was The Media Advisor to the House of Commons Commission. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. He is married and lives in London, England.
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2 Responses to Andrew Mitchell – keep a pinch of salt handy.

  1. Bob Cashman says:

    Well, if you want an opinion on this I see it as a non story. Who gives a s**t what was said to who. It’s all media hype with no substance. Get back to what is important and forget this issue as in a few months’ time we won’t even remember it. And using phrases like ‘plebgate’ really is quite pathetic to the extreme. There was and only will be one ‘gate’ and it’s Watergate.

  2. Neil Mackwood says:

    The odd thing his is being depicted as some kind of toff because he went to Rugby (where they do use the word pleb). However, he is nothing of the sort – he was in my mine (and your) publican. Owner of El Vino.

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