Have I ever sworn at our men in blue? ‘Fraid so. Just about once per week. In fact, every time I see a Thames Valley Police car or van lurking at the end of my road with a speed camera designed to zap unsuspecting motorists driving along a stretch of road that looks and drives like a country road that is either unrestricted or subject to a 40 mph limit. Unfortunately, my county council has decided in its wisdom that this stretch of road should carry a 30 mph limit and the local speed cops have learned that this is an easy earner.
When I see them, I am afraid I mutter phrases that cast doubts on the legitimacy of their parentage. This is not aimed at them as individuals but at a system that prioritises the easy option of punishing the motorist for a momentary lapse of attention but fails comprehensively to do anything about a bunch of oiks terrorising residents in Adderbury High Street.
I hope this practice of cursing our custodians of law and order is in a different category to that recently practiced by my namesake, Andrew Mitchell when he allegedly swore at Downing Street protection officers and called them “plebs”.
I have enjoyed my time in local government and in local politics. It teaches one a certain humility to meet constituents regularly in the pub, supermarket or just walking the dog. I fear this contrasts significantly with the schizophrenic atmosphere of the Westminster village where too many are in danger of losing touch with the real world. If this is true of the Westminster village, I am sure it is even more true of the Whitehall village and, most specifically, the peculiar village that is Downing Street.
I have passed through Downing Street security quite a few times in my career. One has to produce proof of identity. Given that I have consigned my out-of-date little red EU passport to my safe at home, I take my shotgun certificate instead. It is issued by the Thames Valley Police and contains my photograph. I have had some fun when passing through the Downing Street cordon, in telling the police officer checking my details that I have left my shotguns at home. They have always shown a sense of humour which I regard as essential to survival in public service.
I am afraid I suspect that Andrew Mitchell did swear at the Downing Street protection police and probably did call them “plebs”. I also think the offence of the police officer in question was a refusal to open the main gates from Downing Street for Mr Mitchell to pedal his bicycle out into Whitehall and to send Mr Mitchell to the pedestrian gate where the hapless Chief Whip might have to queue for a minute or two with the general public to gain his freedom. I fear high office can lead to arrogance in all but the strongest of strong people. To be fair, he may well have had a difficult meeting and allowed his irritation to spill out in an attack on someone least able to respond but I do not think this is a valid excuse.
I think DC is going to have to sack him.