Tories debate Mitchell position
Up to four Tory MPs have voiced doubts about Andrew Mitchell's position, but a majority of Conservative backbenchers are still supporting the beleaguered Chief Whip.
A senior Conservative source said that 12-15 MPs spoke in favour of Mr Mitchell as the backbench 1922 Committee met today.
However there were "three or four with doubts" about the Chief Whip, whose outburst outside Downing Street has left police representatives calling for his resignation.
"Overwhelmingly, the feeling was we didn't want to score a spectacular own goal," the source said. "The feeling in there is that this thing has run and run but there's nowhere else for the story to go."
Ed Miliband ramped up the pressure on David Cameron to sack his Chief Whip with a sustained onslaught at Prime Minister's Questions today.
The Labour leader claimed the Prime Minister had failed to give him "straight answers" on the subject, adding: "I think it is a real issue abusing police officers. Just because a police officer has better manners than the Chief Whip, it doesn’t mean he should keep his job."
He said that most people would be arrested for swearing at police offers. "The Prime Minister would be the first in the queue to say it’s right. While it’s a night in the cell for the yobs, it’s a night in the Carlton Club for the Chief Whip. Isn’t that the clearest sign there could be of double-standards?"
Pointing to anonymous briefings against Mr Mitchell by Tory MPs, Mr Miliband said the Chief Whip was "toast".
According to some observers in the Chamber, Mr Mitchell mouthed: "I didn't swear."
Mr Cameron said: "What the Chief Whip did and what the Chief Whip said were wrong, I'm absolutely clear about that and that's why it's important that the Chief Whip apologised.
"That apology has been accepted by the officer concerned, it's been accepted by the head of the Metropolitan Police and that's why the Government will get on with the big issues on helping Britain get on and compete in the world."
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