Andrew Mitchell’s failed apology: what he should have said

‘Andrew Mitchell: what an idiot.’ That seems to be the consensus from Lib Dems in Brighton. Partly it’s borne of frustration that his self-admitted outburst against the police is distracting attention away from the party conference. Unfortunately, ‘Tory cabinet minister calls police effing plebs’ is a lot more interesting than policy news about schools funding or international aid.

But the bigger reason for thinking Andrew Mitchell is a bit of an idiot is demonstrated by his inept apology this morning, an apology which managed to dodge the word ‘sorry’ and left entirely unresolved exactly what it was he said or didn’t say. Of course there’s a bit of an irony in the media berating Andrew Mitchell for not fully saying sorry after a week when many journalists have derided Nick Clegg for doing exactly that. And it seems to me all the fuss is a bit overdone. But that’s politics for you, and politicians (and their media advisors) should know that.

So here’s some suggestions of what Andrew Mitchell should have said if he really wanted to draw a line:

First of all, I want to say sorry. I have already said sorry to the police officer concerned. I am grateful to him for accepting my apology. I also want to say sorry to the public at large. As a cabinet minister I know that people rightly expect me to uphold the highest standards. I clearly failed to do so.

Understandably people want to know exactly what I said. The truth is, I lost my temper after a difficult and frustrating day. I don’t say that as an excuse. But I said things I should never have done. I genuinely do not remember using some of the words that have been attributed to me. They are not words I would ever use. But in the heat of the moment, when my temper got the better of me, I cannot swear to exactly what was said or heard. What I can say is that I am genuinely sorry for this mess of my own making.

I hope people will accept this apology in the genuine spirit in which it is intended.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Nick (not Clegg) 24th Sep '12 - 3:03pm

    Is the Glee Club meeting tomorrow night?

    May I suggest that, in a break with tradition, they commence the proceedings not with “The Land”, but with “Who’s Sorry Now?”?

  • Peter Watson 24th Sep '12 - 5:24pm

    Mitchell should have said nothing.
    If we have learnt anything this week is that apologies are much more entertaining when sung.
    “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry …”

  • Helen Dudden 24th Sep '12 - 5:42pm

    I think most of us would have said, who does he think he is? he says he is important , only as long as he is voted for.

    As you so rightly say, what about schools, housing, I keep asking here in Bath, when? we have so many problems ,yet we should be seeing results, for those who need it. so badly.

    I also read today about free school meals, is it really that way? Are children afraid to look small in front of their friends. I think we could add, think about your job, that is what it is. That is why you have to listen to others, doing their job too.

  • Mitchell gave the apology of a man who isn’t particularly sorry, but has been obliged to apologise. The old saying goes, “never speak while angry, you may give the best speech you’ll ever regret” – we’ve learned some truths about Mitchell out of his outburst, and perhaps some truths about the political party he serves.

  • Keith Browning 24th Sep '12 - 6:42pm

    If the Tory Chief Whip had not been exiting No 10 Downing Street but was instead a tattooed youngster leaving 1012 Coronation Street then he might have received a few days at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Is there now an ‘Andrew Mitchell defence’ for the next person to verbally abuse a police officer.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Sep '12 - 9:29pm

    “Sorry really does seem to be the hardest word” when you are born to rule.

    When’s the musical re-work?

  • The man is birlliant. He turned an apology into an excuse. He just cannot bring himself down to the level of the average Briton. He has failed to apologize, failed to tell the truth and failed his party. A full inquiry is in order. The man needs to go. But you can see the wagons circling. The ruling elite like to take care of their own. It is not the losing his temper that people object to. We have all done that. It is his sense of entitlement and disgrguard and insensitivity for working people that disgust us.

  • Now we know the slogan of the next Tory General Election Campaign….

    “Know your f*cking place, Plebs!”

    Please can we have Andrew Mitchell as the next 5 caption competitions?

  • Jedi – if the Nasty party wants to show its true colours – no problem with me.

  • Peter Watson 25th Sep '12 - 12:19pm

    The Andrew Mitchell fiasco works on so many levels, but for me the class war aspect is less important than the hypocrisy. The tory party depicts itself as the party of law and order, on the side of the police, for civility and respect, etc. BoJo is applauded at his party conference for condemning those who swear at the police and stating that they should be arrested. Simply sacking Mitchell (or accepting his resignation) would have reinforced this message strongly. Mealy-mouthed apologies and sly implication that the police lied contradict it. I’m happy to see the tories suffer this self-inflicted damage, but it could so easily have been avoided and maybe a positive impression created instead.

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