Janet Daley was born in America where she began her political life on the Left as an undergraduate at Berkeley. She moved to Britain (and to the Right) in 1965 where she spent nearly twenty years in academic life before becoming a political commentator: all factors that inform her writing on British and American policy and politicians.
What Andrew Mitchell admitted doing is not cancelled out â€“ even if he was ‘stitched up’
I am slightly bewildered by the general exaltation in the Andrew Mitchell camp over the alleged attempt to “smear” him by, as it turns out, a police officer. It may or may not be the case that the officer arrested on suspicion of having fabricated eye witness testimony to the Mitchell Incident, did indeed make up what he claimed to have seen.Â If he did, that is a deeply shocking abuse of police power.
But even if it should be established beyond doubt that he did exactly that, it does not exonerate Mr Mitchell from what has always seemed to me to be the most important fact of the affair (to which he has admitted): that he swore at a police officer in an obnoxious and unpleasant way when that officer was simply carrying out his duty. As your grandmother used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”. Only in class-obsessed Britain could the question of whether the word “pleb” was used by a government minister be regarded as a more significant point than the much more obvious one. The Cabinet minister in question swore at, and insulted, a serving officer. That is an arrestable offence â€“ but the minister was not arrested. That too constitutes an abuse of power. If Mitchell did not, in fact, say all the words that were attributed to him, we should be told because that would affect our view of him and his behaviour. But what we know that he did say (because he told us), I think many members of the public will believe, was bad enough to have constituted grounds for resignation.