As published in The Daily Telegraph:
How the boys in blue have been given a bruising by the Tory tough guys;
Policemen are, by definition, used to dealing with tough customers. But the experience that prepares officers to deal with thugs on street corners has not prepared them for a confrontation with the hard men of the Westminster village.
For make no mistake, the public agonies now being endured by various officers in the West Midlands, and the torments that may lie ahead for their Scotland Yard colleagues, are all the work of Andrew Mitchell and his fellow political bruiser, David Davis.
Mr Mitchell, the former Conservative chief whip, and Mr Davis, a former party leadership contender, have spent months preparing and implementing a plan to challenge an official police account of Mr Mitchell calling officers in Downing Street “plebs”.
That account cost Mr Mitchell the con-fidence of his colleagues and led him to quit the Cabinet, a decision he now regrets. The formidable Mitchell-Davis operation has involved squeezing information out of police sources, then deploying it, through the media and in private discussions, to build political sympathy for Mr Mitchell – and engender suspicion of the police.
Even senior Labour figures, such as Jack Straw, have signed up to the undeclared campaign to Free the Sutton Coldfield One.
The pivotal decision of this drama – whether the Crown Prosecution Service will charge any Metropolitan Police officers over the original incident in Downing Street – is still to come. However, even if no charges are brought, police disciplinary proceedings are a distinct possibility.
Either outcome will be another victory for an operation that has already won several tactical victories: the police are on the defensive and doubts about the case against Mr Mitchell have taken firm root at Westminster.
But what about strategic victory: Mr Mitchell’s return to high office? Undoubtedly, political sympathy for him is considerable, and growing.
A number of ministers have called for his return to the Government in due course.
Even David Cameron hinted at contrition during Prime Minister’s Questions, when he spoke of “a moment for all of us to consider what we said at the time”.
But it is one thing to sympathise with a wronged colleague, and quite another to reappoint to your Government a man who admits saying this about Downing Street police officers on duty: “I thought you guys were supposed to f—— help us.”
That is the history that still troubles people in Westminster and it is a history that no political operation, no matter how effective, can rewrite.
Mr Mitchell has apologised for that remark.
However, the apology now risks being forgotten as the hard men of Westminster close in on their vengeance.
Mr Mitchell and friends make a convincing case that he has been sinned against.
However, perhaps only by doing more to account for his own sins can he achieve the final redemption that he craves.