So the Plebgate row tediously rumbles on. Did Andrew Mitchell use the word pleb? Did the policeman in question lie? Did the police federation intentionally try to get Mitchell out of his job in revenge for previous arguments? Much more importantly, does anyone still care?
Even if the police did lie, the portrayal of Mitchell as the hard-done-by politican forced out of a job by lies and untruths is wrong. Whether he used the word pleb or not and whether the story can be questioned, Andrew Mitchell, an elected politician shouted and swore at police for not letting him ride his bike through a gate. They were perfectly entitled to do this and were doing their job. One can debate whether this alone would deserve losing a job and for what its worth this writer feels that it was an example of a self important politician behaving appallingly in public office and whether he’d had a bad day or not, it doesn’t justify what he did. But even, even if someone believed that a harsh judgement the fact still remains that Mitchell made a bed to lie in. The whole affair could have been avoided had he not behaved like a spoilt brat not getting his way. So whatever has followed Mitchell is not innocent and was not forced out of his job by a lie – he made the bed for himself.
As for whether the police lied, there is no doubt that police lying is worrying and we would like to trust that institution for honesty and integrity. The problem lies with the fact that the facts are more or less unprovable. At vast taxpayers expense, a year has been spent trying to find the truth and the conclusion is still essentially that it’s Mitchell’s word against the police officer’s. The CCTV reveals very little – although what we as the public have seen would appear to contradict the police officer’s account of the number of people present and near to the incident, there is apparently footage we are yet to see that blurs the issue.
Police have lied in disgraceful circumstances over issues such as Hillsborough, phone hacking or the murder of Stephen Lawrence and that deserves plenty of attention. What I object to about the coverage of this story is the willful police bashing. There are people in all walks of life who have power and lie and behave greedily. I have unfortunately had first hand experience of needing the police and the bulk of on the beat officers do a superb job with bravery, courage and integrity. To bash the police over lying about a stadium disaster with 96 deaths is understandable. If one of them exaggerated slightly about the idiotic behaviour of a self righteous politician, I’m frankly not as fussed. The police seemed to have earned more bashing from Plebgate than Hillsborough and that seems nonsensical.
The crucial point in all this is what is to be gained from continuing to plough this story? If by some miracle, the facts are actually established it will prove one of two things. Either the policeman exaggerated a bit or we’ll discover Mitchell used a particular word while acting like a twit. Shouting and swearing at a police officer is why Mitchell lost his job so which words he used are immaterial. So please, for the sanity of all those sick of this story, let it go.