Big Mark felt the undying need to impress upon me a story that I ‘wouldn’t believe.’ Part of the inescapable conversationalist repertoire taxi men seem to stick to is politics, if not the weather, football or socio-economic conditions all of which directly affect their lives one way or another. Big Mark’s thunder-clap of a reintroduction into British tabloid news leaves little to be desired in a country already marred by the foreboding stamp of political correctness.
Andrew Mitchel has become the scapegoat of a politically correct enquiry with undertones into the disrespect of class distinctions in Britain. In the ensuing collateral damage the Police Federation and the London Metropolitan Police has now been wrong-footed and forced into divulging thoughtless spin and plunged into a publicity war to save the face of Britain’s justice system.
The Right Honourable Andrew Mitchel, a Minister of Parliament for Sutton Coldfield resigned from his post as Chief Whip for the House of Commons on the 19th October after a month of back and forth accusations of a verbal dispute between him and an on-duty police officer on the 19th September 2012.
In the shared working environment of Downing Street- in which the minister plays the role of cog and the policeman the role of protective covering- the two men clashed after Mitchel was quoted as swearing at the officer and undermining his position as being unimportant and not integral to the ‘running of the country’. Why the tabloids, and Mitchel himself, have fascinated themselves with the singular word ‘pleb’ instead of stronger profanities allegedly used by Mitchel- the ‘strict disciplinarian’ formerly known as ‘Thrasher’ in his school days, according to the BBC- is unclear but the enlightening developments of the previous months has exposed a deeper gash; the unreliability of police and their idea of correct behaviour as a model for public behaviour.
The issue of Andrew Mitchel’s allegedly inconsiderate outburst after ‘a long and frustrating day’ have some credence as disrespectful language. From the Latin ‘plebeius,’ “of or characteristic of the lower class,” or “belonging to the plebs,” the use of the word is heavily used in the upper-class and amongst those young boys part of elitist school networks probably unaware of what it actually means and more attracted to its unimaginative repetition. It does denote the opinion of class and usually as a response to unnecessary flexing of power… over the access through a gate, for example. There was no reason for Boris Johnson to remind people that swearing at a police officer will result in an immediate offence and may be punishable by arrest in the same way that nobody needs reminding about the freedom to leave or enter a building (especially when habitual) via a particular route. I wonder if Jon Tully, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, would square that scenario with his idea of double standards.
However, at the end of the whip is usually where you feel the sharpest sting and the issues raised after Mitchel’s resignation are the ones that will force many now very public figures to sit up and consider whether they have taken the wrong turn. In the opinion of Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor, the issue over Mitchel’s temper is not the issue at all, but of the massive internal haemorrhaging of London’s police department and ‘the tug of war between press and politicians over press freedom.’
The most worrying part is the idea that the witch-hunt- also worryingly considered to be wrong in itself by Michael Fabricant, none other than Prime Minister David Cameron’s elections adviser- now concentrating on the Police Commission is ramping up to epic proportions verging on a massive internal, institutional conspiracy.
Despite being true that both parties- Andrew Mitchel and the Metropolitan Police Commission- have lost the zero-sum game it should not be a question of win or lose but of what new pieces of information can explain the wishy-washy, unexplainable previous ones. Why has a Diplomatic Protection Squad Officer lied about being present during the altercation? Was it a plot aimed at undermining Andrew Mitchel or could it be as base as one friend, sympathetic of a collegue’s views of elitist, inconsiderate bad-mouthed politicians, sticking up for another? Either way, it is not comforting that Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, promises a ‘ruthless’ investigation because being ruthless is what a pit bull does, it bites and shakes until there is nothing left irrespective of whether what it bites is a log, a minister or a two-year old child.
The freedom of the press and their inflammatory involvement is also under scrutiny. With a head-line a day not built upon as frequent as evidence, of course things will be fluffed up and exaggerated. For one, the constant pictures of Mitchel sneering above a caption declaring his shock and horror at accusations of him using such a terrible word such as ‘pleb’ or a forlorn, guilty look of acceptance behind the gates of Downing Street can only be construed as the press seeking to paint a picture of a man riddled with evil in order to fuel the news beast. It is a pity David Cameron has not bugged 10 Downing Street to the brim with speakers recording every conversation, every second, in every room then we would probably realise (especially the ‘hard done-by’ on duty officer) how delicate Mr. Mitchel actually was with his words. Or maybe Mr. Cameron has? Anyway, that would be something new to read about nonetheless.
Despite whether Cameron sinks into a Nixonian state of paranoia or not, it would be hard to believe that it would positively affect the politically correct minefield citizens increasingly find themselves living within Britain today. The PC culture does have its virtues but not without a very tangible slide towards repressed evolution. Censorship of words, even if they do come the context of an angry outburst, will begin to stunt social development and hurt our nation’s great exhalation of freedom- and justice will come to an end.