Who would replace Andrew Mitchell?
Tories are already wondering who would replace Andrew Mitchell if he became the shortest serving government appointment in recent memory. Andrew Mitchell had been making a pretty strong play for this job for some time so the field was not crowded with people willing to take on the angry cyclist.
One name that gets mentioned is Michael Fallon, but he’s only just landed in BIS and has been set a number of tasks including trying to get shot of any government asset that can be sold off. His relations with Vince Cable have so far been fairly smooth – although Vince Cable made a point of introducing him after David Willetts at a “meet the parents” ministerial team talk last week and Michael Fallon left half-way through the gathering for an important meeting. One attendee though it was a stroke of genius sending out a message that he really was much busier than anyone else.
So if Mr Fallon is deemed to be too busy elsewhere, could this be a moment for Francis Maude to step in? He was considered for a move in the chats between George Osborne and David Cameron ahead of the last reshuffle. I understand that Jeremy Hunt was pondered as the man who might go to the Cabinet Office (Maria Miller was pondered as a possible Health Secretary), but the Tory top duo decided that Mr Hunt “wouldn’t be tough enough” to take on the top civil servants. Anyway, Francis Maude is some Tories’ tip for the whip job.
None of which helps David Cameron with the “plebs” fallout damage. Some posters at the demo outside this conference used the word. I’m sure speeches here and at Labour’s conference will be peppered with it. I hear that Andrew Mitchell has privately specifically denied using that word. But the suggestion is that it appears in at least one contemporaneous note in a police notebook.
If Number 10 truly thought that some of the diplomatic special protection police were lying in a way that traduced the reputation of a minister then they you might think logic would dictate that the police officer(s) should be removed from service. As I write, no sign of that!