UK chief whip sorry for insulting police

2012-09-21 18:00
New Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell arriving at 10 Downing Street in central London. (Yui Mok, PA/ AP)

New Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell arriving at 10 Downing Street in central London. (Yui Mok, PA/ AP)

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London - The British government's new chief whip Andrew Mitchell was forced to apologise on Friday after he reportedly launched a foul-mouthed tirade at police officers guarding the prime minister's residence.

Mitchell, a senior member of David Cameron's Conservative party and a former international development minister, allegedly called the police at Downing Street "fucking plebs".

The Sun newspaper reported that Mitchell told the officers to "learn your fucking place" after they stopped him from leaving through the main gate of Downing Street on his bike.

Mitchell has denied using the language reported by The Sun, but accepted he had been disrespectful to officers, and said he had apologised to police.

The 56-year-old, a former soldier and investment banker who was appointed to his new post by Cameron during a cabinet reshuffle in August, said: "While I do not accept that I used any of the words that have been reported, I accept I did not treat the police with the respect they deserve.

Call for resignation

"I have seen the supervising sergeant and apologised, and will also apologise to the police officer involved."

Police representatives called on Mitchell to resign, saying his outburst was particularly badly timed because it came in the week that two policewomen were shot dead in the city of Manchester in northwest England.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file officers, said it was "hard to fathom how someone who holds the police in such contempt could be allowed to hold a public office".

The home affairs spokesperson for the main opposition Labour party, Yvette Cooper, branded the reported altercation an "utter disgrace".

She said: "It tells you all you need to know about this out-of-touch government and its attitude to public servants."

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