British PM under fire over ‘pleb’ spat



Agence France Presse

Published — Saturday 22 December 2012

Last update 22 December 2012 12:19 pm

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LONDON: Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron was under fire Saturday from friends of a minister who quit over claims he called police officers ‘plebs’, saying the PM left Andrew Mitchell ‘swinging in the wind’.
Mitchell was forced to step down as the government’s chief whip in October after officers claimed he swore at them and called them “plebs” when they stopped him from cycling out of the main gates of Downing Street a month earlier.
The politician — who as chief whip was responsible for enforcing discipline in Cameron’s Conservative Party — has admitted swearing but has always denied he used the word “plebs.”
The issue has exploded again this month with the police now investigating what they call “extremely serious” allegations that a serving police officer fabricated evidence in the case.
Security camera footage aired on television this week, which appeared to show little sign of a dispute and few potential witnesses, in contrast to the leaked police log of the incident.
Using the same phrase, several newspapers quoted unnamed friends of Mitchell saying Cameron had known about the footage but left Mitchell “swinging in the wind” by not allowing him to see it before he resigned.
“It was a disgraceful decision to let it lie and let Andrew swing in the wind,” one was quoted as saying by The Independent newspaper.
Another in The Guardian was quoted as saying: “The prime minister clearly decided not to raise concerns with Bernard Hogan-Howe,” Britain’s top police chief, calling such a decision “astonishing.”
“Back in September, Downing Street had three quarters of the facts that are now in the public domain.
“It is inexplicable that no questions were asked of the police.”
Hogan-Howe is to face a grilling by lawmakers over Scotland Yard’s handling of the incident.
The head of London’s Metropolitan Police will face questions in the New Year from the Home Affairs Select Committee scrutiny panel, The Times newspaper said.
The cross-party body has written to Hogan-Howe asking for an explanation over Scotland Yard’s handling of the case.
“There are serious questions that need answering,” said committee chairman Keith Vaz.
A police officer was arrested last weekend on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.
Another man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of “intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offense on or around 14 December.”

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