Daily Archives: December 19, 2012

Jim Pickard

In a Commons packed with more than 600 MPs it was not hard to spot the man of the hour: the former chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

His honour and dignity intact –at least on a relative basis – the Tory MP was stood at the front of the chamber, the overspill area for those unable to find a seat on the green benches.

Hair immaculate, in a blue shirt and pink tie, his arms uncomfortably crossed: there he was, smouldering – the very image of the wronged man.

Rob Wilson, a Tory backbencher, put in the awaited question: would the prime minister make sure no stone would be “left unturned” in finding out whether a police officer had fabricated allegations against a member of cabinet?

The prime minister began, as is the convention, by praising in broadbrush terms the work of the police on the beat.

But David Cameron went on to say that a police officer appeared to have posed as a member of public and sent an email “to blacken the name of a cabinet minister” and so a thorough investigation needed to occur. The independent Police Complaints Commission would supervise the inquiry, and politicians should “allow them to get to the truth,” he said.

This was not a prime minister’s questions overshadowed by the Mitchell affair, otherwise known as “plebgate”, or “gate-gate”.

Instead the half-hour was dominated by Labour attempts to paint the UK 2012 as a grim, Victorian state dominated by food banks, the poor and even “the workhouse”.

It was Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition, who set the tone – after a couple of technical questions about Britain’s withdrawal from Afghanistan (where there are no political points to be scored.)

Was the prime minister concerned, he asked, about a “six-fold increase” in the last few years in people relying on food banks? (This may or may not be a rock-solid statistic.)

Bizarrely, Cameron turned this question around, praising the volunteers providing free grub to the needy as the embodiment of his once-cherished philosophy – “The Big Society”. Read more