Cameron Says ‘One Step at a Time’ on Mitchell

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron remained cautious about any move to reinstate former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell to a government job after police made two arrests in a probe linked to the events that sparked his resignation.

“One step at a time, let’s get to the truth about what happened,” Cameron told reporters on a visit to U.K. troops at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan yesterday. “I think there is sympathy for Andrew” among Conservative Party lawmakers.

London’s Metropolitan Police are investigating an officer’s allegation that Mitchell, who was in charge of Tory party discipline, called officers “plebs” outside Cameron’s Downing Street residence in September in an incident that led him to step down a month later.

A report by Channel 4 News televised Dec. 18 said a police officer had posed as a member of the public and falsely claimed to have witnessed the events in an e-mail to his lawmaker. Cameron may restore Mitchell to office if the new evidence exonerates him, a person familiar with the premier’s thinking said the same day.

“It has been an extraordinary development, frankly, to find a police officer apparently posing as a member of the public, pretending to have been outside Downing Street at the time, and then trying to blacken the name of a Cabinet minister,” Cameron said.

Mitchell Meeting

The prime minister told reporters that he met with Mitchell at Downing Street four days ago.

“He was calm and rational but feels obviously disturbed by what seems to have happened and is keen to get to the bottom of it,” Cameron said. “I thought his mood was pretty calm and reasonable given what are pretty extraordinary revelations.”

Police arrested a 23-year-old man two days ago on suspicion of “intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an indictable offense on or around Dec. 14,” the Metropolitan force said in a statement. The unidentified man is not a police officer or member of police staff, according to the statement.

The Sun newspaper reported Sept. 21 that Mitchell abused police officers, saying they should “learn their place,” because they refused to let him cycle through the main gate of Downing Street.

A Diplomatic Protection Squad officer was arrested on Dec. 15 by police investigating how national newspapers were able to publish their records of the incident. Mitchell denied using the word “plebs,” while admitting he lost his temper and swore at officers.

Police have widened the investigation amid accusations by Conservative lawmakers of a politically motivated campaign to damage Mitchell. About 30 officers are working on the inquiry, overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

To contact the reporters on this story: Svenja O’Donnell in Afghanistan at sodonnell@bloomberg.net; Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.