13/10/2012 12:53 BST | Updated 12/12/2012 05:12 GMT

Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell Backed By Philip Hammond Despite Continued Calls For Resignation

Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell was clinging to his job on Saturday despite sustained calls for him to be sacked over disputed claims he called police officers "plebs" in a foul-mouthed outburst.

Labour renewed demands on Prime Minister David Cameron to axe him after an attempted "clear the air" meeting with local police representatives ended with them saying his position was "untenable".

But Defence Secretary Philip Hammond rallied to his Cabinet colleague's defence, accusing the Police Federation of trying to "hijack" the row to bring up other issues and grievances with the Government.

And a Tory source insisted that last night's meeting had changed nothing, saying Mitchell "fully intends to be at his desk doing the job he is paid to do on Monday morning".

Emerging from Friday night's meeting in the MP's Sutton Coldfield constituency, the chairman of the West Mercia federation Ken Mackaill accused the senior politician of questioning police integrity.

Though he admits swearing when he was refused access through the Downing Street gates on his bicycle, and has apologised personally to the officer involved, Mitchell denies calling the officers who bore the brunt of his outburst "plebs".

That is at odds with the officer's written log of the outburst.

"He refused to tell us what he did say on the grounds he did not want to impugn police officers' integrity," Mackaill said following the 45-minute talks with three local federations.

"Unfortunately that is exactly what happened: the question of integrity remains unresolved.

"He is continuing to refuse to elaborate on what happened and I think his position is untenable. I think Mitchell now has no option but to resign."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper seized on the continued dispute to keep up calls for Mitchell to go.

"David Cameron is the only person left still backing Andrew Mitchell. How long is the Prime Minister going to let this drag on?" she said.

"The drawn out saga of half apology and oblique denial has left a cloud hanging over the Government's attitude to public servants.

"It is now very hard for the Chief Whip to command respect in Parliament or beyond.

"The Prime Minister needs now to show some leadership and judgment and take seriously the message this incident has sent to people across the country about his Government.

"He needs to end this now and make Andrew Mitchell stand down as Chief Whip straight away."

Hammond though, quizzed about the row on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions, said: "We've now got other people who were not involved in the incident who seem to be trying to hijack this issue now and take it forward for their own purposes.

"The man's apologised, the person he insulted has accepted the apology, let's draw a line."

He added: "The House of Commons will be back on Monday - Andrew Mitchell will be performing his duties as Chief Whip.

"I don't really buy the argument that he can't do the job. I think he can do the job."

The Tory source said the Prime Minister was "very robust" in his position on not removing Mr Mitchell.

"Everything is as it was before the meeting," they said.

"He repeated his apology and has done so many times. He very much hopes that he is now able to draw a line under this.

"The problem is there is always going to be a difference of opinion about what was said," they said - comparing the issue to a road accident where three witnesses all had different accounts of what happened.

"There are no liars. People just have different recollections. Andrew Mitchell is clear he did not use the word pleb."

Cameron has repeatedly said that the issue is closed as the officer at the centre of the storm has accepted a personal apology from Mitchell and no formal complaint has been made.

Senior police chiefs have also called publicly for a line to be drawn under the affair.

Clinging on to his job... just

On Friday, the chair of West Mercia police said that Mitchell's position as the Conservative chief whip was untenable and the cabinet minister has no option but to resign.

Ian Edwards, the chair of the West Midlands Police Federation, told The Huffington Post UK before the summit that officers were "very upset by him saying the officers' accounts aren't true".

When the incident was first reported Mitchell admitted to swearing at the officers who guard the prime minister's residence, but denied calling them "plebs".

However the official police account recorded Mitchell as saying: "Best you learn your f******* place... you don't run this f****** government... You're f****** plebs."

The class-based insult was toxic for the Tories, who have been trying to shake off their image as being led by out of touch "posh boys".

A YouGov poll published on Friday showed 50% of public think the row showed that Tory MPs see themselves as better than ordinary people.

The survey revealed that 60% of the public believe Mitchell's outburst "showed his true feelings" and 50% think his behaviour and attitudes reflect those of other Conservative MPs.

Desperate to hang onto his job, Mitchell dodged the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham so as not to be a distraction, but his cabinet colleagues who did make the journey were said to be openly discussing how to make him quit.

As a sign that his power to enforce discipline on backbenchers had vanished, one Tory MP said Mitchell now had "no authority at all" while the Daily Telegraph branded him a "laughing stock".