On Tuesday September 18,2012 two female police officers were gunned down in the UK. UK Tory PM David Cameron was one of many people who offered praise and sympathy to the police. Many words were spoken. A day later the new Tory Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, had an altercation with police officers on duty in Downing Street, home to the PM. The words that were spoken have been disputed but it is fair to say that Mr Mitchell overstepped the mark.
David Cameron was quick to give him a dressing down and make sure that Mitchell apologised. This led to an insincere and meager apology. Far from heartfelt it was a man going through the motions. Since then this storm in a teacup has dragged on. It has now become a rather more important matter.
It boils down to many things. The fact that this verbal abuse was hot on the heels of the murder o f two police officers. The words that some claim were said were more than just rude, bombastic and offensive. The fact that a man recently promoted appeared to want to flex his career muscles. The fact that the words are disputed.
There have been calls for Mr Mitchell to be sacked.These have been rejected. There have been calls for an inquiry into what was said and by whom. These too have been rejected by PM Cameron.
Instead the government has opted to concentrate on how the press managed to get their hands on the official reports of the incident. Yesterday one Tory politician, David Mellor was on British TV as good as accusing the officers involved of supplying information to the press for money. He was on dodgy ground doing so.
The altercation was seen and heard by tourists in the vicinity and so it could be any number of people who reported it to the Press. Accusations that it was a police officer for money are serious allegations.
People have been debating whether swearing or using offensive words at police officers is breaking the law. There seems evidence to suggest that it is not. However would this be the same should a vagrant swear at a police officer or if an officer swore at the PM? It has to be one law for all.
We would have thought that at the very least Mitchell would have been cautioned or arrested for disturbing the peace, or similar.
Mitchell now believes that having apologised to the officer involved he should be able to draw a line under the affair. He will not however clarify what he said. The PM may want to know how the Press got hold of the information but that is irrelevant.
The point is, did Mitchell behave in a professional way as a representative of the country's government showing respect for the law officers of the land? We think not.