Plebs claim row 'out of proportion'

Blackpool Citizen: Andrew Mitchell told a local paper he blamed the national media for 'blowing up' his argument with police Andrew Mitchell told a local paper he blamed the national media for 'blowing up' his argument with police

Government chief whip Andrew Mitchell has risked inflaming the bitter row over his altercation with Downing Street police officers by again insisting that he did not call them plebs.

In an interview with his local newspaper, the Sutton Coldfield Observer, Mr Mitchell said he wants to "draw a line" under a matter which was "blown out of all proportion" by the media.

He says he still does not accept the police account of what happened last week when officers refused to allow him to cycle through the main Downing Street gates.

According to the report in the official police log, published in full in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, he swore repeatedly at the officers, calling them "f****** plebs".

But Mr Mitchell said in the interview: "I think most people who know me know I would not use words like 'pleb' or 'moron' in describing anyone. I would gently point out that I did not say the words that have been ascribed to me. I hope my constituents and friends in Sutton Coldfield will not recognise the hideous caricature that has been portrayed in some of the tabloid press."

His refusal to accept the police account has angered many officers, with police representatives saying that he is effectively impugning the integrity of the officers involved.

Mr Mitchell acknowledged that he "did not treat the police with the respect they deserve" and said he "apologised profusely" to the officer involved. "I have apologised and I hope it's possible to draw a line under it," he said.

Despite the differing versions of events, No 10 has rejected calls for an inquiry by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to establish who is telling the truth, saying that the police have decided not to pursue the matter.

David Cameron, dogged by questions about the issue during his attendance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, said Mr Mitchell's behaviour is "deeply regrettable" but that his apology should be the end of it.

"On the basis he has given an apology and the police have decided not to pursue that any further, that is where matters should rest," he said.

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