Is Mitchell being pushed out by his colleagues?
Rumours have swept the conference hall today, repeated by MPs and ministers, that the Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell is about to resign.
The Mitchell camp is emphatic. “No” was the answer I got when I enquired if he was about to quit. And his people express surprise at the suggestion.
So are senior Tories trying to get an unstoppable bandwagon going, and spreading rumours which simply force Mitchell out? I wouldn’t be surprised. Politics is a dirty business. And there’s a widespread agreement that Mitchell’s authority as chief whip has been greatly undermined by the plebs affair (and he denies using the word). And the party’s reputation has been hugely damage.d
Unlike the Liberal Democrat and Labour conferences, speakers haven’t been making “pleb” jokes, of course, but senior officers of the Police Federation in Birmingham were today wearing PC Pleb T-shirts. And it was telling that when Mitchell appeared in a short video at the Boris Johnson rally last night, his contribution was met with what one might best say were derisive cheers.
If Mitchell does go, or is forced out, it’s unlikely to happen today (Tuesday), or tomorrow, Wednesday. That would overshadow David Cameron‘s speech tomorrow. Thursday or Friday would be much more likely, giving time for Cameron to name a new chief whip in time for MPs’ return to Westminster next week.
As to who might replace Mitchell, there’s no obvious answer. One senior government figure suggests Philip Dunne, who was regarded as one of the more effective whips before being switched in the recent shuffle to a job at defence.
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