Former Sunderland’s MP’s backing for ‘Plebgate’ minister

Andrew Mitchell and below, Chris Mullin.
Andrew Mitchell and below, Chris Mullin.
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A FORMER Wearside MP has waded into the “Plebgate” row by accusing the police of “fitting up” ex-Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell.

Chris Mullin, who represented Sunderland South, said it had been “obvious from the start” that there was more to Mr Mitchell’s story than met the eye.

Three police officers accused of trying to discredit the ex-Government Chief Whip are due to appear before MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Committee.

They were accused by the police watchdog of misrepresenting Mr Mitchell after a meeting they had following claims he called Downing Street police officers “plebs” for not allowing him to ride his bike through the street’s gates. Mr Mitchell, who has always denied the claim, later resigned from the cabinet.

Mr Mullin, from Ashbrooke, who retired as a Labour MP in 2010, said he had known Mr Mitchell for years and could not believe he used most of the words attributed to him.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought they would ever dare fit up a Tory cabinet minister,” he said.

“If they can do that with impunity, what would happen to the lad in Hackney or Manchester.”

The row between Mr Mitchell and the police intensified after the original allegation when three representatives of the Police Federation met the MP at his constituency office in Sutton Coldfield.

According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), Mr Mitchell thought the was meeting to “clear the air”.

However, in comments made after the meeting, one of the officers claimed Mr Mitchell would not provide an account of the incident and called for his resignation.

Mr Mitchell had recorded the meeting and a transcript showed that he apologised for swearing at the police officers and had denied using the word “plebs”.

West Mercia Police conducted an internal investigation into claims the three officers were trying to discredit Mr Mitchell and concluded that there was no misconduct case to answer. It said that there was no deliberate intention to lie to journalists.

But last week the IPCC – which oversaw the West Mercia investigation – said it disagreed. The officers have since said they regret giving the statement.

Mr Mullin, who led a campaign to free the Birmingham Six, victims of a miscarriage of justice, has supported Mr Mitchell throughout the claims.

He said he had noted the way in which the Police Federation had taken up the issue and it was no longer an argument between a minister trying to wheel his bicycle out of 10 Downing Street and the policeman on duty. He said “somehow or other” they had turned it into a national issue and that it was not in the public interest that the Police Federation should be allowed to “reshuffle the Government”.