Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Mitchell finally falls on his sword

Andrew Mitchell has quit as chief whip

Government chief whip Andrew Mitchell has finally fallen on his sword after admitting that the row over his confrontation with Downing Street police made his position untenable.

After weeks of criticism, jibes and speculation over his future, Mr Mitchell said it was not fair to put his colleagues and family through such "damaging" stories any longer.

He insisted in a letter to the Prime Minister that he had not referred to an officer on the gate in Downing Street as either a "pleb" or a "moron" but acknowledged delivering, after being told he could not ride his bike through the main gates, the parting line: "I thought you guys were supposed to f****** help us."

Mr Mitchell had desperately clung to his position amid a mounting clamour over the past month for him to go. He did not attend last week's Conservative Party conference in Birmingham - neighbouring his Sutton Coldfield constituency - after admitting that his presence would be a distraction.

He sought - and failed - to win over Police Federation members by meeting them in his constituency and trying to explain his actions, last Friday. Labour leader Ed Miliband maintained the pressure when MPs returned to Westminster this week, calling him "toast" during Prime Minister's Questions.

Concerns were raised by backbench Tory MPs during a meeting of the party's 1922 Committee. Mr Mitchell's fate is believed to have been sealed on Wednesday when deputy chief whip John Randall reportedly had to be talked out of quitting in protest at his determination to cling on.

However, in his resignation letter to Mr Cameron, Mr Mitchell said: "Over the last two days it has become clear to me that whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter I will not be able to fulfil my duties as we both would wish. Nor is it fair to continue to put my family and colleagues through this upsetting and damaging publicity."

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said Mr Mitchell's resignation "seemed almost inevitable". Labour said Mr Mitchell should have gone earlier and questioned the Prime Minister's judgment in allowing him to remain place.

Mr Cameron, who conducted his first major reshuffle only last month, must now appoint a new chief whip, potentially forcing further changes in the ministerial ranks.

Accepting his resignation, Mr Cameron said he was "sorry" to receive Mr Mitchell's letter but added: "I understand why you have reached the conclusion that you have, and why you have decided to resign from the Government. I regret that this has become necessary, and am very grateful for all you have done, both in Government and in Opposition - as well as for the kind words in your letter."

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