Second man held over police 'plebs' row
Police investigating allegations that Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell was falsely accused of calling officers “plebs” have arrested a second man.
The 23-year-old, who is not a police officer, was released on bail yesterday. He was questioned about suspicions that he “intentionally” encouraged or assisted the commission of an indictable offence last Friday, of which no details have been released.
Mr Mitchell resigned as government chief whip in October over allegations that he abused officers at Downing Street because they refused to open the main gate to let him out with his bicycle.
Last night, the police federation – which led the campaign for his sacking – pulled back significantly, saying it would “be the first to apologise” if it turns out the evidence was fabricated.
Federation chairman Paul McKeever appeared to lay the blame on its West Midlands branch, saying that the national leadership had publicly said it was not for it to call for Mr Mitchell’s resignation.
The anger of police towards Mr Mitchell at the time “has to be taken in context”, Mr McKeever said, since the incident happened just after two Manchester policewomen had been shot dead by a gunman.
The organisation had 43 branches and it was up to them to reflect the views of their members, he said. He could not criticise them if they “honestly believe they are reflecting the views of their members”, he added.
Mr Mitchell admits that in frustration he told an officer, “I thought you were here to f***ing help us”, but he has consistently denied that he called them plebs or said they thought “they run the f***ing country”, as police allege.
Former Conservative home secretary Kenneth Baker yesterday sharply criticised the police federation, saying it had become “an extremely aggressive lobbying body, determined to get a minister”.