U.K. Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, the government’s most senior civil servant, said he and Prime Minister David Cameron see no need for any further investigation into an altercation between Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell and a police officer last week.
The Sun newspaper reported Sept. 21 that Mitchell called an officer a “pleb” -- an abbreviation of the word “plebeian,” an insult directed at one’s perceived inferior -- when police refused to let him cycle through the main gate to Cameron’s Downing Street office in central London. Mitchell, a Cabinet member who is in charge of party discipline in the House of Commons, apologized for showing a lack of respect.
“There clearly remains a genuine difference of view about what words were actually used,” Heywood wrote in a letter that was released by the Cabinet Office yesterday to the opposition Labour Party’s Yvette Cooper, who had demanded an inquiry. He said Mitchell had apologized and that the police weren’t pursuing the matter.
“Given these circumstances neither the prime minister nor I see any purpose in a further investigation,” Heywood wrote.
“I have apologized to the police officer involved on the gate and he’s accepted my apology and I hope very much that we can draw a line under it there,” Mitchell told reporters in London yesterday morning. “I didn’t show the police the amount of respect I should have done. We should all respect the police, they do an incredibly difficult job.”
Labour said it wasn’t satisfied by the cabinet secretary’s announcement.
“Either David Cameron does not believe the written testimony of at least two police officers tasked with guarding VIPs or he is willing to overlook it in order to keep Andrew Mitchell in his Cabinet,” Labour’s spokesman on the police, David Hanson, said in an e-mailed statement. “What is now beyond doubt is that he is a weak prime minister unable to establish the truth of what goes on -- even just yards from his own doorstep.”
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