The first anniversary of plebgate

As Chris Mullin in The Guardian reminds us, it is the first anniversary of plebgate.

Alarm bells began to ring. Bernard Hogan Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, cut short his Christmas holiday to appear before the home affairs committee. Hogan Howe, who from the outset had been unwisely professing his complete confidence in his officers’ version of events, now promised “a ruthless search for the truth”. Operation Alice was set up, involving 30 police officers who were to leave no stone unturned. The issues they had to resolve were simple enough. Why did the Downing Street log suggest that the incident had been witnessed by members of the public when it hadn’t? Who contacted the Sun within hours of the incident taking place? Who leaked the contents of the log to the Daily Telegraph? And, above all, who put Randall’s constituent up to apparently claiming he had witnessed the incident when he hadn’t?

Nine months on, the outcome of this “ruthless search for the truth” is still awaited. A number of officers and one civilian are reported to have been arrested, but as yet there is no sign of any charges. We will, of course, never know precisely what was said by Mitchell in his exchange with the officers. All one can say is that what has since come to light undermines the credibility of the police witnesses and adds weight to Mitchell’s version of events.

There will of course be those who ask why all this should be any concern to those of us who are not Tories. Why, they may argue, intrude on private grief? In my view, however, there are wider issues at stake that ought to be of interest to all democrats. First, it is not in the public interest that the police should be allowed to reshuffle the government on the basis of evidence of which some is clearly fabricated.

Second, as one of my Tory neighbours remarked: “If the police will go to these lengths to fit up a Tory cabinet minister, imagine what they could do to a black boy late one night in the back streets of Manchester.” Finally, somewhere at the back of all this lies the Police Federation, a mighty vested interest with a long track record of defending the indefensible. It is high time it got its comeuppance.