Downing Street would love nothing more than for the public to write off Andrew Mitchell’s elitist rant as a minor spat that ultimately doesn’t matter to the country. Prime Minister Cameron has tried to put the issue to rest, saying Mr Mitchell’s apologies have been accepted and the police have no desire to pursue the matter further.
When framed as an altercation between public servants who’ve since settled their differences, it seems sensible to declare “Plebgate” officially closed. The problem is Andrew Mitchell is no ordinary public servant. As Tory Chief Whip he is an enormously powerful elected official who speaks with the voice of the Prime Minister.
I can’t help but imagine Mitchell channelling Mr Cameron as I read excerpts from the official police log of the incident.
“‘Best you learn your f_______ place . . . you don’t run this f______ government . . . you’re f______ plebs.’”
Even if these quotes are not entirely accurate, (and Mitchell’s slippery denial that he did not use the ‘words attributed’ to him leaves wide open the possibility that he did in fact call the police officers plebs), they betray the mind-set of a ruling party which sees itself as vastly superior to ordinary working people.
Putting plebs in their place has been at the heart of the Conservative agenda since they took power. Rather than crack down on tax avoidance by corporations and wealthy individuals—a policy which could generate a staggering £95 billion in savings—Government has doggedly pursued spending and welfare cuts which have hit the poor hardest and sorely undermined our economic recovery. Instead of securing our global competitiveness by easing access to higher education, the Tories have priced university beyond the reach of bright students from modest backgrounds who fear taking on a crushing debt burden.
Economically, these policies don’t add up. But if you’re trying to re-engineer society to alter the balance of power in favour of a narrow slice of privately educated, privileged elites, then they make perfect sense.
Whether Mr Mitchell resigns is immaterial. Even before he threw his teddy in the corner, most people stopped believing the Tories were working for the good of us all. As long as they hold power, they will continue to implement policies that make them and their mates richer and the rest of us poorer.
Then again, what do I know? I’m just a f______ pleb.