Ousted UK minister: I was stitched up

2012-12-23 20:22
Andrew Mitchell (Picture: AP)

Andrew Mitchell (Picture: AP)

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London - The British cabinet minister forced to quit over accusations he called Downing Street police officers "plebs" claimed on Sunday he had been "stitched up" in his first full account of the furore.

Andrew Mitchell said abusive phrases attributed to him were "hung round my neck in a concerted effort to toxify the Conservative Party and destroy my political career".

Mitchell who resigned in October as the government chief whip - charged with enforcing discipline among Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives - said he was hit with a "tsunami of vitriol" following the incident.

Mitchell laid bare his account of the 19 September dispute and its aftermath in The Sunday Times newspaper, as he intensified efforts to clear his name and pave the way for a return to government.

Last week police opened an investigation into a possible conspiracy against the former international development secretary after it emerged an e-mail from a civilian witness backing up the claims was in fact written by another officer.

Newly-released CCTV footage also raises questions about the accuracy of the police log from that night, which was leaked to the press.

"Suddenly I realised I was being stitched up", he told The Sunday Times.

Mitchell wrote in the broadsheet that he had been through the Downing Street front gates several times that week in September.

"On this occasion the conversation with the police was as follows," he said.

"Me: 'Please open the gates.'

"Police: 'No. Please get off your bike and leave by the pedestrian exit.'

"Me: 'Please open the gates, I am the chief whip; I work here at No. 9.'

"Police: 'No, you have to get off your bike and wheel it out.'

"Me: 'Look, I have already been in and out several times today. Please open the gates.'

"Police: 'No.'

"With that I complied with the policeman's request and wheeled my bike across the pavement and out through the pedestrian entrance.

"As I did so, I muttered - though not directly at him - 'I thought you guys were supposed to fucking help us.'

"To which the policeman responded: 'If you swear at me I will arrest you.' Whereupon I cycled off. As I left, I think I said that I would pursue the matter further the next day."

The alleged police log of the incident, leaked to newspapers, recorded Mitchell as saying: "Best you learn your fucking place. You don't run this fucking government. You're fucking plebs."

Devastated

The e-mail seemingly backing up the police record was "larded with detail" and "gave every appearance of being designed to stand up the police log", Mitchell wrote.

"It was completely untrue. I was devastated. This was a stitch-up.

"I now know a good deal more about that e-mail and how calculatedly dishonest it is.

"For the next three weeks these awful phrases were hung round my neck in a concerted attempt to toxify the Conservative Party and destroy my political career. I never uttered those phrases; they are completely untrue.

"A tsunami of vitriol was poured on my head as my reputation was assailed from all sides and my character assassinated.

"Night-time was the worst. We would sleep for two hours and then wake, tossing and turning for the rest of the night as I contemplated the destruction of my career," he wrote.

Scotland Yard police chief Bernard Hogan-Howe has broken off from his holiday to be briefed on the progress of the investigation into the affair, which has 30 officers on the case.

A police officer was arrested last weekend on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.

Another man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of "intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offence on or around 14 December".

The row is also causing trouble for Cameron, who defended himself on Sunday against criticism by friends of Mitchell who said the premier had left him "swinging in the wind".

A Downing Street spokesperson said Cameron had "deep sympathy" for Mitchell.

"The prime minister stood behind his chief whip through weeks of growing demands to sack him. It was only when it became clear that he could no longer do his job that his resignation was accepted with reluctance," the spokesperson said.

"Andrew Mitchell did not disagree with the prime minister's approach throughout this period."

Read more on:    david cameron  |  uk
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