“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
The words of Leo Amery to Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons in 1940. Harsh words to a man who believed that he was doing his best for his country. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if those same words were addressed to Andrew Mitchell on Monday morning when the House returns from its Summer recess.
Mitchell made a mistake. He foul mouthed a policeman for no good reason. But his real mistake was his failure to own up to what he actually said. He then compounded this error by refusing to confirm the accuracy of the policeman’s report – thus implying that the policeman’s report was false.
If nothing else, Andrew Mitchell is a fool who has an inflated opinion of his own importance. But on that fateful afternoon, Mitchell also betrayed an arrogance which is becoming all to commonly displayed by members of the political class. “Don’t you know who I am?” ranted Mitchell. The very same words used by Harriet Harman when confronted by a motorist whose car she had run into in South London. Both Mitchell and Harman’s remarks imply that they are due some form of deference from ‘ordinary’ people. An indication of how detached the political class have become from the people they were elected to represent? I think so.
But what of Mitchell the man? Who is he? What should we make of him? In opposition he was the nodding, fawning fellow who always managed to sit close, some say too close, to David Cameron on the front bench. Maybe that’s a bit unfair, but I’m always suspicious of ‘pushy’ people or those whose behaviour is contrived. His Mary Poppins bicycle illustrates my point.
But Mitchell’s greatest failing is that he just doesn’t know how to behave. And he should have known better. His expensive education clearly didn’t teach him much. But what really sticks in my craw is that he doesn’t understand that if you’re in a position of responsibility, and particularly if you’re a Cabinet Minister, you should set an example. Behaving like a spoiled little tit and mouthing off at a policeman is not acceptable. But not being man enough to admit what you said and then implying that the butt of you remarks is not being truthful, reveals Mitchell as a very flawed individual and someone who really doesn’t deserve to hold public office.
If Mitchell were a man, a real man, he would have resigned. If Cameron’s judgement wasn’t so lousy, he would have fired him. Does he honestly think that Mitchell can be an effective Chief Whip? Perhaps Tory MPs will do the job for him and give Mitchell ‘the word’ – or maybe Leo Amery’s words will echo in the Chamber on Monday?