PMQs: The Chief Whip’s brain is missing*

*Conservative Chief Whip, that is.

Does Andrew Mitchell have some embarrassing photos of David Cameron? Or is there some disaster coming up, known only to the Prime Minister, for which he is conserving the Chief Whip for dumping overboard at an expedient moment as “cover”?

There has to be some reason that the PM preserves in post a man responsible for one of the longest public aftermaths ever for an intemperate outburst.

Only the Tory party could tie itself up in such tortuous knots over such an incident.

Today at Prime Minister’s Questions, a month after the encounter was revealed, Ed Miliband was still able to make huge capital out of it.

Incredibly, Andrew Mitchell, who is to PR crisis management what Mr Blobby is to bomb disposal, gave the story even more legs by adding a new denial. In a shouted comment to Ed Miliband, he denied even swearing during the incident!

Has Andrew Mitchell got no brain?

First, he denies using the word “pleb”. Now, a month later, he denies swearing. Next, he’ll be denying he was actually there and expecting us to believe him.

Mixed up in the plebgate remarks, Miliband succeeding in embarrassing Cameron by comparing his promise that there sould no fewer frontline police with the news that 7,000 front line police have been removed since 2010.

Ah, but the percentage of front line police has gone up, said the PM, showing skill at making it up as he goes along.

That said, “crime is down”, said Cameron.

The reasonable good news of the unemployment figures took the wind out of Miliband’s sails a bit.

Cameron’s best line was reserved for the end of the session when he said Miliband was about to go on “the most lucrative sponsored walk in history”. That was referring to the forthcoming march organised by Labour’s “paymasters”, the unions.

Mexican stand-off

The Prime Minister announced that we will not answer any questions from the honourable member for Rhondda until he, the member, apologises. That was a clever way of avoiding a difficult question about his text messages to and from Rebekah Brooks. But it seems a rather petulant position, which creates a hostage to fortune. What if, God forbid, there is a disaster or tragedy in Rhondda? Will Cameron still refuse to respond to the honourable member?

When is a question a speech?

When it is as long as that of William Bain or Ian Paisley. They did go on. I thought MPs would need a sleeping bag during Paisley’s “question”. There were also some admirably short questions, such as that from Julie Hilling (Lab):

My constituent, Aaron Moon, lost his leg in Afghanistan. He then lost his disability living allowance. The Prime Minister promised to look after ex-servicemen and women. What has happened?

– That’s how questions should be.

Liberal Democrat questions

Andrew George asked how quickly the government would implement the Groceries Adjudicator Bill.

Sir Nick Harvey asked a bullish question – for a recently ex-defence minister. Will Cameron keep an open mind on how to replace our nuclear deterrent? – he asked. After all, there are so many other pressures on the defence budget. I noticed that the current Defence Secretary took this question with considerable sanguinity.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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14 Comments

  • I don’t think Miliband et al really want Mitchell sacked. All they need for the next election is a big poster of Mitchell and the caption “Know your f****ing place, plebs”. Job done.

  • ‘The Prime Minister announced that we will not answer any questions from the honourable member for Rhondda until he, the member, apologises.’

    That is pretty outrageous. Whatever Cameron’s personal greviences are with Chris Byrant, he is the duly elected member for Rhondda. To refuse to answer questions until he apologies he shows disrespect to the constituents of Rhondda, disdain for how our representive democracy works, not to mention appearing incredibly immature for a PM.

  • Refusing to answer MP’s questions both show the true Cameron. He feels he is above such matters, in short his petulant behavior shows even if Mitchell does not think we are all plebs, Cameron does. Whether he likes it or not, he is in the House on Wednesday lunch time to answer elected MP’s questions. As John has stated above the constituents of Rhondda deserve them to be answered. In my view the Speaker should rebuke the PM and ask for the question to be repeated until an answer is provided. It’s childish behavior, we deserve better from any Prime Minister.

    As for Mitchell, if this was pre May 2010 and a Labour Minister I’m pretty sure their would have been huge resignation calls from Lib Dem benched and their still should be. Sorry is not always enough, sometime you need to take the consequences of your actions. A Minister of the Crown should not act in the way he did and stay in office.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 18th Oct '12 - 4:56pm

    Dave Page – I get the impression that Andrew Mitchell behaving like a member of the human race would be a good start…..

  • @Dave Page
    If it only (allegedly) happened why did he apologise???

    He has consistently refused to state what he did say but by claiming it was not what was in the report has implied that the police lied. Either a police officer has made a mistake that needs rectifying, or worse has lied on a legal document and should be disciplined or Mitchell is lying. Whichever it is there needs to be clarity before he can be allowed to move on.

  • And why couldn’t we use a similar poster, Phyllis?

  • Richard Dean 18th Oct '12 - 10:34pm

    The incident, the words, and the support for AM is so astonishing that I wonder if the word “pleb” might not have been used after all. Could it have been “plod”, as in “I’m late for an effing meeting, you effing Mister Plod!”? Easy to mis-hear, not at all the same as pleb, but still something you don’t want energetic young hooligans to copy.

  • @Richard Dean
    If it were that simple I think we would have had it confirmed by Mitchell weeks ago. Pleb or plod the F’ing part will be enough to get people arrested in towns and cities all over the country this weekend. It’s the type of double standard that is reminiscent of the expenses scandal and other political behavior rows.

    We complain about footballers not being role models yet they never put themselves forwards for election, by doing so politicians can be reasonably expected to meet acceptable standards of behavior or pay the price. Remember this was not in any private capacity but at the gates of Downing Street. This man diminishes the entire cabinet by being allowed to continue to sit at the table.

  • I actually find “know your place” more offensive and revealing than ‘plebs’

  • Tim13

    Well Lib Dems would attract widespread ridicule if you used such a poster because unlike Labour, you are not calling for him to resign and the. Leadership has criticised him in very lukewarm terms. But more than that, because the public perceive you to be very comfortable with the Tories – Rose Garden love-ins etc, supportive of a right wing agenda, 75%of a Lib Dem manifesto delivered, and forgiving of Tory misdemeanours eg Jetemy Hunt abstentions rather than condemning him outright. This is purely what people perceive based on the actions of your leaders. So if you turn around and start attacking the Tory Part’s bad boys in 2015, , folk will say ‘hang on, you weren’t saying this before’ and they might think it was just to win votes. And then they”d say ‘oh hang on, didn’t Lib Dems sign a pledge to win votes from students? Hmmmm we see what’s happening here”

  • Actually, I found his closing remark, “You haven’t heard the last of this”, most disturbing of all.

    Of course he may simply have meant “I am unhappy about your actions and will lodge a complaint in the same way that any member of the public could”. But it didn’t sound like that to me.

  • Richard Dean 19th Oct '12 - 1:02pm

    We all lose our cool sometimes, and we grab the first words that come to mind. The first words are pretty near what we are already thinking, so if pleb and know-your-place and L’ll-get-you-later are the first words, then the mind is sick. It needs a long, long rest from high office.

  • Totally agree with the comments that Cameron is behaving appallingly by refusing to answer Bryan’s question.

    Cameron is not only supposed to be held to account by parliament but he is also supposed to be able to be held to account by the public through their Mp who they have elected them to represent them.
    It is disgraceful that Cameron can treat not only the “house” with such contempt, but also the constituents of Rhondda.

    When the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives is behaving in such a bullish attitude, is it really any wonder that his minions feel they can take a leaf out of his book.

    And as for Mitchel, I am beginning to hope the Vulgar little man actually stays in his post, It; will be a seat at the next election that will be made much easier to win and one less degenerate that we have to put up with in the HOC

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