LONDON: Andrew Mitchell, the former government chief whip at the centre of the “plebgate” scandal, has accused Downing Street officials of covering-up evidence showing he did not abuse police.
The 56-year-old Conservative MP was forced to resign in October, a month after officers who stopped him wheeling his bicycle out of Downing Street’s main gates accused him of describing them as “plebs.”
In an interview to be broadcast Monday night, he was to tell Channel 4 that Cabinet Office officials tried to stop him accessing the closed circuit television footage which appeared to show he had not been involved in a furious exchange with officers in September, thereby contradicting police accounts.
He admits swearing but is adamant he never used the word “plebs”.
Mitchell claims he asked to see the crucial footage on Oct.19but was forced to wait almost three weeks.
“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,” he says. “I couldn’t wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing I had been stitched-up.”
In Monday’s interview Mitchell goes on to claim Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood tried to stop him seeing the CCTV on the grounds of national security.
“I do not think the arguments about national security were genuine, no,” he says.
Further doubts on the police’s version of events were cast after it emerged that an email from an eyewitness backing their story had been sent by an officer who was not in Downing Street at the time.
Mitchell claims that had the CCTV and email been released earlier he may still be in Government.
The CCTV showed no signs of a furious argument, nor did it show a members of the public watching the alleged confrontation, as claimed.
The Commons Public Administration Select Committee has already said Mitchell could have kept his job if Heywood had spent more time scrutinising the events.
The Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has said the police investigation into the incident “had been concluded” in December, shortly before the CCTV images emerged.