It’s been over a year since former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell lost his job over allegations that he verbally abused police officers at the gates of Downing Street, and three of the officers involved have finally issued a public apology for briefing the press with distorted versions of the story. It is now clear that whilst Mitchell’s choice of language may not have been appropriate, he did not describe police officers as ‘plebs,’ the phrase which the entire story has been centred around.
I strenuously believe that Mitchell, who had served in the cabinet since the 2010 election and is also Birmingham’s only Conservative MP, should instantly be given his old job back now that it is apparent that the reasons given for his dismissal were based on lies. However, I also believe this matter goes way beyond issues of politics, regardless of how important those issues are. The real question we must ask in the wake of this scandal is whether we can ever trust the police again.
If police officers have the power to successfully frame a senior politician and to destroy his career, then what can they do to the lives of ordinary citizens? I am no libertarian, as I believe that if individuals have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear – or so it should be. But if the very people who are meant to enforce the law can also conspire against an innocent man, then this principle no longer stands. The Plebgate scandal is just the latest incident of police corruption, and outside of the Conservative Party few people are concerned about the career prospects of yet another senior politician. But when it comes to police cover-ups over the Hillsborough disaster, or the ongoing matter of racial profiling, people suddenly start to pay attention to this deeply sinister issue. They realise that it is not just Tory MPs who can fall foul of police corruption, but ordinary men and women like you and me. Therefore, David Cameron should not only give Andrew Mitchell his job back, but he should also announce a full inquest into the workings of the police force, so that citizens can feel safe in the knowledge that the police are to be trusted rather than feared.