Police calls for MP to quit over ‘moron’ remark
LONDON, Sept 23 — Police representatives demanded an MP resign on Friday, saying he had sworn at officers and called them “morons”, in an embarrassing incident for Prime Minister David Cameron and his government.
Andrew Mitchell, the so-called “Chief Whip” responsible for keeping discipline among MPs in Cameron’s Conservative Party, admitted making unacceptable comments after being told to get off his bicycle as he left Downing Street.
The confrontation at the security gates outside Cameron’s office was reported on the front page of the mass-selling Sun newspaper, which said Mitchell swore at police, called them “plebs” — common or vulgar people — and told them to learn their place, allegations which he denies.
The timing could hardly be worse for Cameron, coming days after two unarmed female officers were shot dead in Manchester, northern England, and overshadowing his trip to the city to pay tribute to the dead women.
It also fuelled claims that Cameron, who attended the elite Eton school, and other wealthy members of his government were out of touch with ordinary people, a portrayal which opponents have been keen to exploit.
John Tully, head of the Metropolitan Police Federation which represents ordinary officers in London, said the incident showed Mitchell was not fit to remain in government.
“I have confirmed with the officers involved that he did say the words that were reported in the Sun,” he told Reuters, saying Mitchell had called the officers plebs, morons and had used expletives.
“My view is and that of my members is that he’s unfit to hold public office and he should resign immediately.”
Mitchell phoned the police officer in question on Friday morning to say sorry and the apology was accepted, his spokesman 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,” said Mitchell, a wealthy former UN peacekeeper and investment banker, in a statement.
The remarks drew widespread condemnation, not least from Cameron himself.
“What Andrew Mitchell said and what he did was not appropriate, it was wrong, and it is right that he has apologised,” said Cameron during a visit to Manchester to visit police affected by Tuesday’s shooting, which horrified Britain.
“The police should always have our respect and help and support and that’s very, very important,” added an angry-looking Cameron, who only moved Mitchell to his new post two weeks ago.
Cameron has struggled to shake off the impression that he comes from a privileged background far removed from the electorate.
In April, one of the prime minister’s own MPs described Cameron and chancellor George Osborne as “two arrogant posh boys”.
The Conservatives traditionally pride themselves on being the party of law and order, but plans to reform police pay and conditions have put them at odds with ordinary officers.
The opposition Labour Party pointed out that Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London who is touted as a possible rival to Cameron, had told his party’s conference last year that anybody who swore at a police officer should be arrested.
“I know first-hand that he (Mitchell) was warned that if he continued to use the language he was using, he would be arrested and he desisted,” Tully said. — Reuters