Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign at Conservative chief whip after the ‘Plebgate’ affair in 2012.
Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign as Conservative chief whip after the ‘Plebgate’ affair in 2012. Reuters

One of the police officers allegedly called "f***ing plebs" by Andrew Mitchell has reopened the saga by insisting the former Tory Chief Whip did use the offensive phrase at the gates of Downing Street.

The claim came from Ian Richardson, who was on duty at No10 on the night in September 2012 when Mitchell, who was riding his bicycle, clashed with officers after they refused to open the main gates for him.

Richardson, 50, was an eyewitness to the verbal spat, but claimed he heard next to nothing. He said a colleague told him Mitchell had called them plebs only seconds after the exchange.

Richardson claimed he was the first person PC Toby Rowland told about the clash with Mitchell – including the mention of the word "pleb".

According to Richardson, Rowland told him after he began walking over, having heard Rowland say to Mitchell: "Please don't swear at me."

Talking to The Times, Richardson said: "I believed him then and nothing has changed my position since.

"Not for one second did I think he's making this up. He repeated to us those exact phrases which were to become the absolute focus of their exchange – the swearing, the insults and the threat that we hadn't heard the last of this."

Rowland also told Richardson he had warned Mitchell he could arrest him for a public order offence, on the grounds of Mitchell's swear words - which the politician admitted to using.

"Not for one second did I think he's making this up."
Ian Richardson, former
Metropolitan Police officer

Richardson, who was the most senior of the four constables guarding Downing Street that evening, told Rowland to "'write [his version of events] down and ring the skipper because you just threatened to arrest the Chief Whip in Downing Street – there's likely to be some problems'".

The official log of the incident by PC Rowland stated the former Chief Whip said: "Best learn your f****** place, you lot don't run this f****** government, you're f****** plebs."

Mitchell has persistently denied he used the word "pleb" and is suing The Sun newspaper for libel for its coverage of the incident, which cost him his job in the Cabinet.

It is now widely believed that Michell was framed by members of the police and their union, the Police Federation.

Responding to the log, which was leaked to the Press, Mitchell said: "PC Toby Rowland, who was responsible for writing those toxic phrases in to his notebook, was not telling the truth."

The veracity of the police officers' version of events was seriously undermined by accusations of collusion between them, a faked letter penned by PC Keith Wallis who pretended to be member of the public and also by the role played by the Police Federation in the saga. A police investigation called Operation Alice was launched to look into the affair.

Doubts have already been cast upon Richardson's claims for apparently not tallying with CCTV footage from three cameras of the incident, which lasted only 49 seconds from start to finish.

Some commentators have queried how Richardson failed to hear any pertinent details of the exchange, but did hear PC Rowland warn Mitchell not to swear.

A spokesman for Andrew Mitchell told IBTimes UK of the latest claims: "Mr Richardson makes clear he did not hear any of the toxic language - language which Andrew Mitchell has always firmly denied using."

Expressing sympathy for Mitchell, Richardson said the MP for Sutton Coldfield was treated like "tethered prey" by a Police Federation eager for a way to hurt the government during a row about police funding cuts of 20%.

Richardson said he felt "great sadness" that Mitchell had lost his job over Plebgate.

"It was so wrong," he said. "It was nothing to do with them [Police Fed]. Certain people thought they had a silver bullet with which they could overturn police reforms."