PM criticised over Mitchell affair
David Cameron has come under fire from fellow Conservatives in the aftermath of the drawn-out controversy over Andrew Mitchell's foul-mouthed confrontation with Downing Street police.
In a blow to the Prime Minister, who had backed his chief whip to remain in post, Mr Mitchell finally quit on Friday night after realising the row had cost him his authority among Tory MPs. The decision came at the end of a week of conversations with parliamentary colleagues in which many made clear they felt he had to go.
Home Secretary Theresa May would not deny on Sunday that she had been one of those telling him to resign, although hostility from a significant section of the newer 2010 intake of Tory MPs appears to have been as important to his decision as the views of Cabinet ministers.
Ministers hoped that Mr Mitchell's resignation would at last draw a line under the issue but criticism emerged on Sunday of Mr Cameron's handling of the issue and of the sense that the Government is lurching from one poorly-managed embarrassment to another.
Mr Mitchell's resignation came hours after Chancellor George Osborne was accused of trying to sit in a first-class rail carriage with a standard ticket, and in the same week Mr Cameron announced a fuel bill policy that his energy ministers appeared to know nothing about.
Conservative peer Lord Tebbit said the Government had allowed an impression of incompetence to set in. Writing in The Observer, the Thatcherite former minister said: "This dog of a coalition government has let itself be given a bad name and now anybody can beat it.
"It has let itself be called a government of unfeeling toffs. Past governments have had far more real Tory toffs: prime ministers Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Macmillan, or even in Thatcher's day, Whitelaw, Soames, Hailsham, Carrington, Gowrie, Joseph, Avon, Trenchard and plenty more, without incurring similar abuse."
Tory backbencher Andrew Percy, who was elected in 2010, said he had been "staggered" by Downing Street's handling of the Mitchell affair and accused Number 10 of failing to take on board the views of its more independently-minded MPs.
"A lot of the problems we are facing at the moment are not problems about the economy but actually it's stuff we have made ourselves. The disasters or shambles that are created wholly within Westminster or within Downing Street," he told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend. "This is a question to be asked about the whole Downing Street operation."
Nadine Dorries, another backbench MP known for her outspoken criticism of the Prime Minister, said it was a "huge mistake" for Mr Cameron to replace Mr Mitchell as chief whip with Sir George Young, an Old Etonian. She said she had "great respect" for Sir George, who was swiftly appointed as a replacement on Friday night, but added: "For a man whose only job was in PR, it displays crass party mismanagement by Cameron."