Lots of commentators are pointing out what a hard-line disciplinarian Andrew Mitchell is likely to make as the new Tory chief whip. Well I have two stories that add to that impression.
The first is Mitchell’s “bollocks” stamp, which, one civil servant tells me, he brandishes whenever he is given a document he doesn’t like. Mandarins more used to Labour’s more caring style when it came to international development were taken aback to find Mitchell regularly sending back briefing papers with that one word of feedback planted across it.
The other piece of Mitchell’s back story that people seem to forget is that he used to be a strong advocate of the death penalty. When I asked him about this in November last year, there was an extremely long pause before he said:
I think that it has become, of course, an academic question in Britain because there won’t be any more debates on the death penalty. But I voted for it, certainly, for those who murdered policemen and women in the course of duty.
Today? I think I would probably not do so.
I just don’t think it is a deterrent. I think that the issue of the death penalty is whether or not it is a deterrent. If you believe it to be a deterrent and it will save innocent lives, then I think you have to think very seriously about supporting it.
I no longer think that is true.
A disciplinarian yes, but one willing to shift his views if the political weather changes. A perfect choice for chief whip then…