Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell's media handling 'a disaster'

Political comms experts agree that coverage of Andrew Mitchell's police outburst will 'run and run' until he confronts the 'plebs' accusation.

Andrew Mitchell: issued apology today
Andrew Mitchell: issued apology today

It is understood that Mitchell, the chief whip, has been advised by Henry Macrory, the former Tory comms adviser, after he is reported to have called police officers ‘plebs’ last Wednesday.

Macrory left his role in May and has since been advising the party in an informal capacity.

Mitchell has this morning issued an apology, in which he stated: ‘It had been the end of a long and extremely frustrating day, not that that is any excuse at all for what happened. I did not show the police the amount of respect I should have done.’

Mitchell added he wanted to make it ‘absolutely clear’ he did not use the words previously attributed to him, but declined to explain what exactly did happen.

DLA Piper head of media Eben Black said: 'His statement today made it even more of a disaster. The police are adamant he said "plebs". He says he did everything else but that, but has no explanation of what he might have said instead. This will run and run, I am afraid.’

Ketchum-Pleon MD of corporate and public affairs Jo-Ann Robertson agreed: ‘Andrew Mitchell clearly said something that he is uncomfortable repeating – whether it was "pleb" or something equally derogatory, the wrongdoing remains the same.

‘With this second statement he has done nothing to dampen the media's appetite to drag this story out, in fact he has just given them more ammunition. Undoubtedly he is lucky that the timing of this "scandal" is during the party conferences, a time when no Prime Minister wants a resignation or sacking - so Mitchell will ride out the immediate storm, but will struggle to get respect from the Conservative MPs he is now supposed to control.’

However, Cicero director and chief corporate counsel Iain Anderson said that the apology today was a step in the right direction.

‘Making a full public apology upfront is the best approach in these sorts of situations,’ he said. ‘Drawing a line in the sand with a heartfelt mea culpa shows understanding and empathy with public sentiment.’

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