The peculiarities of plebgate

6153069332_4811921915_mThere is little doubt that the so-called “plebgate” affair leading to Andrew Mitchell’s resignation was decidedly peculiar. It had momentum in the media because it pandered to preconceptions of the Tory Cabinet as a bunch of out of touch, condescending and rather unpleasant upper class twits.

In the run up to Christmas Channel 4 broadcast a programme raising suspicions over the police “evidence” regarding the incident and its apparent corroboration by a member of the public claiming to have been an eye witness. Central to those suspicions was the observation that the “member of the public” appeared to be a serving police officer. And the CCTV footage seemed to suggest a scarcity of eye witnesses.

This week the story has been given another run around the block and a new angle. The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) published its report into the investigation of the incident. It is very brief report and well worth reading in its entirety. The focus of the report is on the role of the Cabinet Secretary in the investigation, and the absence from the scene of the Independent Advisor on Ministers’ Interests.

The PASC, under the chairmanship of the redoubtable Bernard Jenkin, is characteristically forthright in its view on the matter. It gives the Government what can only be described as a ticking off, albeit one couched in relatively restrained terms. [Read more…]

Jeremy Hunt and the limits of credulity

David Cameron’s performance in the House yesterday in response to Labour’s urgent question about Jeremy Hunt seems to have split people. A large number of people thought he was an offensive and evasive bully. Tory loyalists thought he valiantly defended a minister whose reputation had been unfairly impuned.

This is just the latest installment in a very peculiar saga.

As John Rentoul reminded us on Sunday, there was never a golden age when Ministers were routinely doing the honourable thing: resigned at the first sign of impropriety – let alone illegality – in their department. But you have to ask quite what sort of evidence has to be in the public domain before Cameron would feel compelled to concede that maybe, just maybe, it was time for Hunt to go. [Read more…]