Mitchell accepts foul-mouthed police outburst

By staff

Chief whip Andrew Mitchell looks like he will survive with his Cabinet career intact, despite accepting he swore at police officers outside Downing Street.

David Cameron's new enforcer in parliament has faced calls to resign from policing figures, including the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation John Tully, for launching into a foul-mouthed tirade against officers guarding the gates to Downing Street.

'Best you learn your f****** place," the Sun newspaper reported Mitchell as saying.

It claimed he then added: "You don't run this f****** Government. You're f****** plebs."

Commentators have pointed out the 'plebs' word is politically sensitive as it reinforces the image of Mitchell pushed by his critics as a public school bully. The former international development secretary was nicknamed 'Thrasher' when he was at school.

A source close to the chief whip told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that he did not use the word, however.

"He does not dispute he lost it a bit. It was in frustration at the episode and not aimed directly at the officers," the ally said.

Mitchell had been in Downing Street three times already on the day the incident occurred, it was pointed out. The source added: "He realises there may be differing versions of what was said but he is adamant he did not use the words he is reported to have used."

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg avoided the temptation to call for Mitchell's resignation in an appearance on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show this morning. He instead called for a line to be drawn under the outburst.

"What Andrew Mitchell did was wrong. He knows that and he's apologised to the police and explained himself, and I think he was right to do so," he said.

"It is just plain wrong to be discourteous and rude to the police, who are only doing their job."

The police's sensitivities to rudeness from politicians has been heightened by the deaths of Police Constables Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone, who were killed as they responded to reports of a burglary in Greater Manchester on Tuesday.

Church services are taking place today to remember the officers.