Mitchell: No10 wanted me to lie low
Andrew Mitchell has told of his frustration with Downing Street's handling of the plebgate furore, claiming it just wanted him to "lie low" rather than clear his name.
The Tory MP, who was forced to quit as chief whip after an intense backlash following claims he called police officers protecting the Prime Minister "plebs", suggested No 10 "wanted this to go away" but said he could not live with knowing he had been "stitched up".
Mr Mitchell believes he would still be in government if footage of the exchanges had been swiftly released. Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, who viewed the tape in the days after the incident, was sharply criticised by MPs last month over his botched investigation.
The CCTV scenes threw into doubt police claims about what went on when the then Tory enforcer was refused exit through Downing Street's main gates on his bicycle. But the footage only came to light after he faced a battle with officials to obtain his own copy of the tape. Mr Mitchell said he did not believe claims that the video could not be released on national security grounds were genuine.
In an interview for a second investigation into the incident by Channel 4's Dispatches, which is due to be broadcast tonight, Mr Mitchell said: "I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that - I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up."
Mr Mitchell only asked to see the closed circuit footage of the altercation with police at the main gates of Downing Street on the day he resigned, October 19, but was not shown it for nearly three weeks. "It was quite a frustrating experience," he said.
Mr Mitchell was told he could not have a copy for national security reasons and it took almost a month before that decision was reversed. "I do not think the arguments about national security were genuine, no," he told the programme. He added: "I do not think that the release of the CCTV affects national security."
Four arrests have been made as part of the Operation Alice investigation into the incident. The row ignited when Mr Mitchell was accused of a heated rant against officers as he left Downing Street on September 19.
Pressure intensified after The Daily Telegraph published a police log of the incident, which claimed he called officers "plebs" and swore at them repeatedly. He insisted he did not use the words attributed to him and later said he was the victim of a deliberate attempt to "toxify" the Tories and ruin his career. Prime Minister David Cameron repeated his desire earlier this week for a "thorough" inquiry into the Downing Street altercation.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "Downing Street rejects the suggestion that the Cabinet Secretary's review was 'botched'. This review correctly concluded that the emails in question were unreliable. The Prime Minister wanted to keep Andrew Mitchell in his job, and was very supportive of him. At the time Andrew Mitchell apologised to the police and chose not to make a complaint to the IPCC - a path which was always available to him. The Prime Minister takes full responsibility for the way the case was handled and has said repeatedly that what matters now is that the police get to the bottom of this matter."