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Friday 19th October 2012 | 19:40
Andrew Mitchell's resignation letter reveals that it was events of 'the last two days' that made him realise he had to go.
His ritual humiliation at PMQs - including yet another reprimand from the PM - was heightened by the less than full-throated backing from the benches behind him.
Unlike most Cabinet posts, when the Chief Whip loses the confidence of backbenches, he really is 'toast'. His very raison d'etre is to cajole, threaten, arm-twist his party's MPs into line and if his own reputation is constantly undermined and ridiculed, that's very difficult indeed.
Yes, Mitchell went mainly because he lacked the full confidence not of the PM but of his colleagues. The 1922 Committee meeting on Wednesday night ended with a majority speaking in his favour but there was a significant minority of dissenters.
When even someone as mild-mannered as 2010 intaker Sarah Wollaston is upset, you know things are sticky. Despite denials, the very hint that Deputy Chief Whip John Randall was ready to walk spoke volumes. '22 Vice chairman John Whittingdale's refusal to declare his full confidence in the Chief was another straw in the wind.
And why did some MPs take this apparently minor fit of pique in Downing Street so seriously? Because the Sun put rocket boosters under it, realising that it fed perfectly into the narrative that this was a Coalition out of touch with ordinary people's lives - and, worse, suggested it was a Government which lacked respect for the police.
It's no surprise that among Mitchell's most vociferous critics were northern MPs in Labour-Tory marginals, places where Plebgate had serious 'cut-through' to the voters. I knew things were bad last week when one ultra-loyal Tory MP told me that this had real resonance with the punters and was way beyond a Westminster Village story.
There will be some Tory commentators who bemoan the fractious and ungovernable nature of the Tory backbenches, the disease of what they call 'disloyalty'. But in fact, those rebels may well have done the PM a favour by killing Mitchell off. Imagine if this had dragged on any longer?
The '22 is a formidable beast, even after No.10's attempts to nobble it. It's worth recalling that today - yes today - is the 90th anniversary of the day when the embryonic 1922 Committee of Tory MPs claimed their first and greatest ministerial scalp: David Lloyd George.
Funnily enough, the Tories were in coalition with the Liberals at the time - dealing with big cuts in spending and Whitehall manpower. A group of strong-minded Tory backbenchers (who later formed the 1922 Cttee) declared enough was enough at the famous Carlton Club meeting on October 19, 1922. Spookily enough, that's the very place Mitchell was so keen to cycle to on that fateful, foul-mouthed evening last month.
Of course, it's not just a Liberal PM whose career the ’22 has ended. Tories from Leon Brittan to David Mellor to Lord Carrington all owe their demise to backbench unrest.
Maybe Andrew Mitchell yesterday saw what Carrington said over his decision to quit after unrest at the ’22:
“I had attended a fairly disagreeable meeting of the 1922 committee and although nobody shouted for my resignation I know that within the Conservative Party itself, my remaining in office was not going to help the PM with her supporters.”
To put it another way, what goes around, comes around...
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