Plebgate: morphing into mendacity

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As always, the cover-up is worse than the crime. In the Andrew Mitchell story, the protagonist is still refusing to admit that he said plebs (the fucking stuff seems to have been conceded days ago: foul-mouthedness is not the issue, apparently; plebs and morons are the issue). He asserts, vaguely, that he did not use the words attributed to him. [Added September 25: As Polly Toynbee notes, his refusal to actually claim that he did not say plebs leads us to believe that he did say it: he daren't risk a perjury charge, which is why his apologies and denials are phrased with such extreme generality.] But that means the story is morphing from one about a bad-tempered upper-class put-down into a case of a cabinet member telling lies about a law-enforcement matter, and slandering armed police officers who work for his government and may have to put their lives on the line protecting it from terrorist attack (for that is why the police outside number 10 Downing Street, unusually for Britain, carry firearms).

So Mitchell is saying in effect that two on-duty police officers lied when they wrote their on-the-spot notes about the fucking plebs incident in their little books; and so John Tully, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, is now calling for the Prime Minister to hold an inquiry to determine whether the officers lied; which means (since the officers did not have a motive to lie but Mitchell does) that he is in effect asking that an official ruling should back the officers and reprimand Mitchell; which means that Mitchell is likely to be forced by public pressure to resign his influential post as Chief Whip.

Why won't these people in power ever learn that it's best to admit everything, tell the truth, and try to shake everything off fast, rather than engaging in a protracted battle of cover-up vs. investigation? Once Language Log is poring over what you said and when you said it, you're in trouble.

[Update 19 October 2012: Mitchell was indeed in trouble. He survived four weeks, with the help of a prime minister who unwisely tried to support him, but he finally did resign, as Language Log predicted above. —GKP]

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