Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell and the Gift That Keeps on Giving
By Jim Grundy
At this festive time of year, the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb-gate’ affair really is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving. Not only do we get to see the Tory Party pulling itself apart, despite continuing with an agenda Thatcher only dreamt of, we get a free peek into their sense of privilege, their right to lord it over everyone else without regard to, well, anything else. And of their absolute detachment from how anyone else might view matters in light of their own standards.
Some on the Right have attacked those who they accuse of enjoying his humiliation of being supporters of corrupt police officers. Whilst I replace my irony circuits, being from a mining family that supported the 1984/85 strike, it is only fair to consider what has been going on and to assess the reactions of those who have not necessarily shared Andrew Mitchell’s sense of grievous injustice at the course of events.
I’ve not seen anyone of the slightest ‘left persuasion’ taking the side of the Police at any stage of this affair. And the lack of ‘shock, horror’ at the revelations regarding their apparent conduct is simple confirmation that so few people believed the (institution of the) Police incapable of such behaviour in the first place. Equally, no-one was surprised at the allegation that a senior Tory could use the words attributed to him. But, whilst I grant that the anti-Mitchell reaction was stronger than when the counter-allegations were made against the Police, I think there’s a simple reason for that.
Sure, those who don’t support the Tories were happy to have their own prejudices confirmed about the attitudes of many current ministers towards the ‘plebs’. However, the man, by his own admission, used foul and abusive language to a Police officer, conduct that would see the likes of us arrested. Mitchell was not arrested. He lost his job and had nothing but his mere M.P.’s salary and status as a millionaire to fall back upon. Oh, the humanity….
There is a common denominator here – the attitude of the ‘plebs’ themselves. Those who are normally on the receiving end of abuses by certain sections of the Police and this Government saw no victim in the story, no good guy, no bad guy. And still don’t despite the attempts to flip the story.
Ok, Mitchell was vilified (the poor, powerless dear with nothing but whole newspaper groups on his side and large sections of the Tory establishment). But if anyone wants to look for an explanation why some took pleasure in seeing him brought down you don’t have to dig very deep.
Mitchell is part of a party in government that has used lies, deceit, deception, slanders and libel as the entire basis for its policy-making strategy. It is their leitmotif.
Many in the public sector have been demonised, portrayed as having privileged existences, safe in cushy, non-challenging jobs. And the lies came as but the preface to mass sackings of hundreds of thousands of people; people who didn’t necessarily have private wealth to act as a cushion for the terrible blow that is losing your job.
And the appalling attacks upon benefit claimants, the shameless stereo-typing of anyone in receipt of state aid (apart from large multi-nationals, Government ministers, the very richest in society in general) as parasitic scabs on society continues apace.
Mitchell was and remains part of that. But I doubt very much that the insight of how it feels to be lied about by a powerful, unaccountable group won’t change his thinking. He will continue to support measures to undermine people’s employment rights, the security of their jobs, terms and conditions and then, once they become unemployed as a result, to blame them for their own condition.
If there was a greater reaction against Mitchell than the Police in this instance, as far as I am concerned it’s a simple reflection that, to the best of my knowledge, the Police have been responsible for rather fewer people losing their jobs than the former Chief Whip and his chums. It wasn’t that people trusted the Police more – the ‘revelations’ about Hillsborough show how many perceived the Police already. It was a bite back against a nasty, bullying set of arrogant politicians.
It was that most British of responses – schadenfreude. As I say, the gift that keeps on giving.