A little while ago, I wrote two posts analysing the ‘Plebgate’ CCTV footage and showing that the spin put on it by Michael Crick of Channel 4’s Dispatches programme was not consistent with a proper viewing of the video evidence.
Monday night’s further Dispatches programme on Channel 4 was much-trailed and would supposedly ‘reveal’ a conspiracy against former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell. ‘Surely,’ I thought, ‘if they’re making a new programme about it they must have some further evidence and probably some additional video’. So I was waiting for the programme with substantial interest.
Well, it wasn’t worth the wait. As far as I could see, the show presented nothing new and substantive that actually bears on the issue of whether Mr Mitchell called the officers at the gate ‘plebs’ or used the other phrases such as ‘we run this f***ing country, not you’. There were interviews with people friendly to Mitchell’s cause, various assertions framed as if fact even by the narrator’s voiceover and some drawing of conclusions that to me looked like the opposite of the logical ones. But nothing new that actually meant that the police log of the incident was wrong, and Mitchell was ‘innocent’.
Here are some of the ‘highlights’:
The note & email
Much was made of the fact that a brief Downing St note, made about an hour after the events, made no mention of the word ‘pleb’, but that an email sent by the duty press officer 3 hours after the event contained both the ‘pleb’ allegation and the statement ‘You don’t run this f***ing country. These facts were framed as if significant, but the reality is that it’s not at all surprising that a note just after the events might not contain all the pertinent information, especially before the police log contents were known.
Swearing ‘at’, or ‘in frustration?
Mr Mitchell was allowed, without challenge, to repeat his claim that he did not swear ‘at’ the officers, but instead ‘swore in front of‘ them, out of frustration. But according to his own account of this ‘not-at’ swearing, his words were
I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us!
I don’t know about you, but if someone refers to me as ‘you’ when he’s swearing, I consider it pretty incontestible that he’s swearing at me, and not just ‘in front of me’ or in my presence.
‘Crowds’ vs the ‘odd passer-by’? Or neither?
Again without challenge by Dispatches, Mr Mitchell was allowed to repeat his assertions that:
a) the police log claimed there was a ‘crowd‘ of ‘horrified onlookers‘
b) that the footage ‘clearly‘ shows that there was ‘merely the odd passer-by‘
But as my post last month pointed out, the police log does not mention a ‘crowd‘, but merely ‘several‘ onlookers. ‘Several’, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means
more than two but not many
All you need for ‘several’ is more than 2, and certainly ‘not many’.
And how many do we have present during Mr Mitchell’s interchange with the police?
Well, late last month I took a look at the video shown as fragments by Dispatches and put together a properly-synchronised compilation to see exactly who was there. Let’s look at a few stills from the CCTV footage. This first one shows the white-shoed man who is seen on the Dispatches footage walking outside the gate, stopping as his attention is arrested by what’s going on inside, and then turns back to follow the action:
That makes one onlooker. Next we see the two women who walk by while the action is still happening, before Mitchell has exited the gate – and during the period in which Mr Mitchell has already admitted swearing:
Here are those two from a different angle after they’ve walked a little further toward the pedestrian gate – this snapshot captures the moment where one of them swerves and because her attention is so engrossed with what she’s seeing:
To get a sense of this ‘veering’, please watch my collated footage from around the 1m13s mark. But clearly these two women, who overtake ‘Boomerang Man’ as he meanders back watching the action, were able to see at least a substantial part of the action.
Boomerang Man plus two women = 3 witnesses. We already have enough witnesses to qualify as ‘several’. But we’re not done yet. Next is a snapshot of the pedestrian gate from inside Downing Street, a second or two after Mr Mitchell exits the gate:
These people were either standing near, or approaching, the pedestrian gate as Mr Mitchell was approaching it from inside – the point at which he has admitted swearing ‘in the presence of’ the police officers. They cannot be seen on the exterior footage only because the camera angle of the footage released does not show the pedestrian gate area.
So, we have at least 6 people who were in a position to see all or part of the events in question. ‘More than two but not many’? Definitely. ‘Several’ is the perfect description.
‘No sign of aggression’?
Again, Mr Mitchell was allowed to make the assertion, uncontested, that
Firstly, there’s no sign of the aggressive behaviour that you would associate with the log.
Is this true? Mr Mitchell is holding up his bike, so the long-shot footage from behind him doesn’t show much, but he could hardly have been waving both arms around. However, there is an indication. The next image shows 2 snapshots from the footage as Mr Mitchell wheels his bike to the pedestrian gate:
Mr Mitchell can’t go through the gate until the officer gets there, but rather than following him he walks off, leaving the officer behind. In between leaving and arriving – though you’ll need to view the video to get a good sense of it – he almost flings the front wheel up onto the kerb and bounces the back wheel off the kerb.
Proof of a tantrum? No. Suggestive? Yes. Certainly consistent with what you’d expect from a man getting angry, but not being enough of a complete idiot to kick off a physical confrontation and get himself arrested.
You’d expect some reaction
Again unchallenged, Mr Mitchell says
Had I used those phrases you would expect some reaction.
How, exactly? Does he think experienced, professional officers would throw up their hands in horror like an affronted Victorian lady? Or perhaps faint dead away in shock?
The narrator then says, in a tacit affirmation of his honesty and integrity
Mitchell can no longer go along with the idea that it was all just a misunderstanding
as if his version of the case is already proven. He then continues,
We viewed the CCTV footage, compared it with the eyewitness’s email and concluded..that there were discrepancies.
This statement misses the whole point. The eyewitness’ email is a completely separate issue, whether it proves to be false or not. Discrepancies between an allegedly invented email and the footage have no bearing on whether the gate log was accurate about what Mr Mitchell said – and as my analysis showed, nothing in the footage released so far proves that it was not.
The ‘fake’ log?
Much was made of the log being ‘fake’, but what Tully said was that he’d ‘been unable to verify’ the log’s authenticity, which is a different thing altogether. It will be a simple matter to confirm whether the log on file matches other logs used by those officers – and it must, because if it didn’t you can be sure that Dispatches, Mr Mitchell and his friend and cheerleader David Davis would be trumpeting it in foot-high headlines via every possible outlet. So all we get it more suggestion framed as fact.
The arrested officers
The programme made much of the fact that
2 further constables have been arrested on suspicion of leaking documents.
But note that these officers were not arrested for falsifying documents – just on suspicion of leaking them. In other words, the arrests have no bearing whatever on the veracity of the police log. If any misdeed took place – and bear in mind that an arrest is necessary for an interview under caution and does not prove anything – then it was in releasing the documents without authorisation. There is no suggestion, in the fact of the arrests, that the log was inaccurate.
The programme then compounds its misrepresentation:
One of them was a policewoman who was on duty in Downing Street at the time of the Mitchell incident.
This is stated as if it casts further doubt on ‘the Mitchell incident’ – but of course it does the opposite. If the policewoman was on duty and leaked the documents, it adds support to the veracity of the record. It finished the segment with the statement that
4 other members of the diplomatic protection squad were served with what are called ‘Regulation 15’ notices telling them that they are being investigated on suspicion of misconduct. 3 of them have been placed on restricted duties.
Again, the officers are being investigated, which doesn’t prove they did anything wrong. Given the pressure on Met Chief Bernard Hogan-Howe to show he’s giving the matter his full attention and conducting a fair and thorough investigation, you’d expect nothing less than the officers being investigated. And if they’re being investigated for leaking documents, like the other officers, then the fact of their arrest does nothing to undermine the authenticity and accuracy of the police log. As for being put on restricted duties – what does that have to do with anything? Nothing, certainly, with the issue of whether Mitchell dropped the ‘pleb-bomb’.
I couldn’t wake up
Dispatches still had time for a little more (again, uncontested) sanctimoniousness from Mr Mitchell:
I couldn’t [lie low]..I couldn’t wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up.
Allegedly. Though there was no sign of the programme making this important distinction between allegation and proven fact.
No – in your endo!
And still time for a little innuendo in the form of:
Andrew Mitchell’s lawyers have sent legal letters to the Sun and to the reporter who broke the story.
A legal letter is not proof of anything, nor does it mean that Mr Mitchell is suing. If you have a dispute with someone, you can pay a lawyer to send them a letter – it proves nothing, but can be a relatively cheap way of trying to intimidate someone into desisting something you don’t like them doing.
I give you my word
In one of his self-serving monologues in the programme, Mr Mitchell said of his interview with the West Midlands police federation that he had said to the Federation representatives:
I give you my word
that he had not sworn at the officers or used the word ‘pleb’. This would suggest that he was not under caution during the interview (which is to be expected in a police federation interview rather than an interview on a criminal matter). Not being under caution would have given Mr Mitchell far greater freedom to simply make up his own version of events if he so chose, without fear of repercussions – yet this was not commented on by Dispatches.
There was more, such as the unsubstantiated allegation that No. 10 ‘stalled’ on providing ‘evidence’ that would supposedly have helped prevent Mr Mitchell from losing his cabinet post, but for the sake of brevity I’ll end there.
This was Dispatches second programme about the Plebgate affair – yet it added nothing new and substantive to the first one, but just provided a platform for Mr Mitchell to protest his ‘exoneration’ without being challenged on the facts, and an opportunity for a lot of supposition to be presented as if decisive.
In view of that fact, one has to question why the programme was made at all?
I’m sure that it can have nothing at all to do with the fact that Michael Crick and Andrew Mitchell are apparently old friends.
I’m sure it can have nothing at all to do with trying to weaken the police in the eyes of the public as part of the assault on their pay and numbers, and the drive to privatisation of law-enforcement. That would be a sneaky, underhand trick and therefore couldn’t possibly be something the dear old Conservatives would do.
And I’m equally sure that it can have nothing to do with senior Tory David Davis, who has lost the Conservative leadership battle twice, most recently to David Cameron, trying to damage his leader and strengthen his own position for a further attempt – after all, they do say
‘third time lucky.’