Politics

David Cameron Disciplines Andrew Mitchell For Alleged 'Pleb' Attack On Police

David Cameron has told off his chief whip Andrew Mitchell after the cabinet minister was accused of shouting expletives at the police guarding the prime minister's Downing Street home.

"What Andrew Mitchell said and what he did was not appropriate. It was wrong and it is right that he has apologised," Cameron said on Friday afternoon.

Mitchell, who is responsible for internal Conservative Party discipline, phoned the police officer this afternoon to apologise directly for the "disrespectful" comments, a Cabinet Office spokesperson confirmed.

"He spoke with the officer in question this morning over the telephone and made an apology, and that apology was accepted," the spokesman said.

While a source told Politics Home that the call was the "verbal equivalent of a handshake" and the two men had a "friendly conversation".

The chief whip had to apologise after The Sun reported he flew off the handle when police refused to let him cycle his bike through the gates on his way to No. 10.

According to The Sun the former Army officer told police: "Best you learn your f***ing place. You don't run this f***ing government".

Mitchell, who served as shadow police minister while in opposition, is also accused of calling the officers "morons" and, most damagingly, telling them they were “f***ing plebs".

Pressure mounted on Mitchell on Friday after the Police Federation, the organisation that represents rank-and-file police officers, said it was "hard to fathom" how he could remain in office.

Paul McKeever, the federation's chairman, said it was "hard to fathom how someone who holds the police in such contempt could be allowed to hold a public office".

"Mr Mitchell's half-hearted apology for the comments made whilst leaving Downing Street will do little to build bridges with the police, who feel they have once again been treated with a lack of respect and civility by members of this government," he said.

"The lack of regard that some within government appear to hold police officers in is especially disappointing during this tragic week for the service and does nothing for the rock bottom morale of officers in this country."

The timing of the row is particularly sensitive following the deaths of police officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes who were shot dead in Manchester this week.

Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the allegations were "appalling" if true and police officers and public servants should be treated better by ministers.

"And the idea that a Cabinet Minister could behave like this towards police officers doing their job is an utter disgrace," she said.

Responding to the reports, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy tweeted "Some of these Tories are foul-mouthed spoilt little brats".

And former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit denounced Mr Mitchell's comments as "extraordinarily stupid" and urged Mr Cameron to have a "heart-to-heart talk" with his new chief whip.

As well as offending the police, Mitchell's use of the word "pleb" is especially toxic for the government as it often has to fight accusations that it is led by "posh boys" who are out of touch with the average voter.