Week in review: The scandal before Christmas
Plebgate was supposed to be a gaffe, but now it is turning into a scandal. As everyone's thoughts turned to Christmas, one former chief whip was hoping he might be able to rescue something from his disastrous 2012.
Andrew Mitchell's 'plebgate' only entered in at number five in our top ten political scandals of the year list. But his was undoubtedly the most unusual scandal of the year, simply because it was the only one which has started reversing. From the moment Channel 4 broke its CCTV footage scoop, everything was weird. Journalists are supposed to break political careers, not remake them. Yet doubt was being cast on the police's account of events, and further arrests only gave the drive to rehabilitate Mitchell further momentum. By the end of a strange and unpredictable week, it now looks as if he might be back in power sooner rather than later.
But then, this was a strange week for Downing Street. For the first time in her reign, the monarch attended Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. The Queen has had to sit through many boring functions, but this surely must have been the most tedious of all. We weren't impressed by the theatre of the event. So she must have been relieved when William Hague carted her off to the Foreign Office, where she was informed – presumably with everyone managing to keep a straight face – that the British government had decided to rename vast swathes of Antarctica after her. It's the monarchical equivalent of buying a square foot of real estate on the moon, or a patch of Scottish moorland so you can call yourself a laird. If you ever hear of an MP doing either of those… please let us know.
This week was also notable for the rise of Ukip, apparently heralded by a star in the east . No, wait. Heralded by two polls in the Sunday newspapers, in fact. They gave Nigel Farage's party 14% of the vote, underlining just how serious a threat they pose to David Cameron's right flank in the elections to come. Ukip has been making hay with the coalition's gay marriage proposals, which continued to face criticism this week. But they demonstrated the flakiness of their party discipline when they initially supported a council candidate who was seriously proposing the compulsory termination of all foetuses with Down's Syndrome. That should lose the party many, many votes. It ought to, anyway.
There was good news for the troops, as David Cameron announced nearly half the soldiers in Afghanistan would be coming home next year. Nick Clegg attempted to relaunch the coalition, but no-one was really paying any attention: the midterm review coming up in January might turn a few more heads. Then came the BBC, which faced criticism over its handling of the Jimmy Savile story and the large chunk of cash it gave failed director-general George Entwistle. None of this will be remembered soon, as we gorge ourselves with mince pies and Christmas pudding, of course. Have a nice festive period, everyone…