Andrew Mitchell spent the whole of Home Office questions on the front bench, nodding sagely as both Damian Green and Theresa May were repeatedly asked to condemn his behaviour outside the Downing Street gates, which they repeatedly refused to do. He was joined in his nodding routine by Andrew Lansley, who knows a little about being hauled over coals by the opposition himself.
Throughout the session, there was a low rumble of barracking from the benches. When the first question about the chief whip came from Catherine McKinnell – who asked what the impact was ‘of a cabinet member verbally abusing a police officer at a time of record frontline cuts to police officers up and down the country’ – one Labour MP shouted ‘get the whips out!’ Shadow Home Office Minister Chris Bryant continued sledging throughout other questions on metal theft and hate crime, shouting ‘what did he say?’ while pointing at Mitchell. When James Brokenshire told the chamber that ‘we have the greatest police force in the world’, Mitchell nodded solemnly.
Policing Minister Damian Green responded to the first question. He said:
‘Mr Mitchell has apologised to the officer concerned. The officer concerned has accepted that apology and that I think for most people would be the end of it.’
MPs opposite Green didn’t agree, and roared to show their displeasure. Yvette Cooper used her slot to throw back some remarks the Home Secretary had made to the Police Federation last year, in which Theresa May had said ‘you put up with abuse and worse, you do so to keep us free’. Now it was Mitchell’s turn to roar as May defended him.