I like to think I've a good relationship with the Dyfed-Powys Police. I accept that several officers have contacted me declaring their unhappiness about their working conditions and pension entitlements over the last year or so. I'd like to say I agree with them, but it would not be honest of me to do that. The economy that the Coalition Government inherited in May 2010 has meant cutbacks in every area of Gov't spending, and meant very tough decisions, often affecting policy areas that the nation hugely supports. I can't alter that. We have only to read the Archbishop of York's comments yesterday about impact of our reduced spending on our armed forces. But through it all, I've retained great respect for the work that the Dyfed Powys Police Force do. But that can never mean that I cannot question police actions when I'm concerned about them.
And I am much concerned about what has become known as 'Plebgate'. I recall being interviewed on Radio Wales when the affair first broke, 'defending' Andrew Mitchell - not defending the way he had spoken to the police at gates to Downing St., but that I did not think it was a 'hanging offence'. It certainly warranted an apology, some contriteness and perhaps a meeting without coffee at No 10, but not the sack. I admit to a degree of personal loyalty to Andrew because he did come to Montgomeryshire to campaign for me in the 2010 General Election - and a very good campaigner he was too. But for various reasons, in the end his resignation became inevitable. But we now know it should not have been so.
I've watched the Channel 4 documentary on the issue, including the CCTV footage, which shows that there were no members of the public present - contradicting the police version of what happened. Neither did it look as if there was any sort of row between Andrew Mitchell and the Police officer. And we are now told that the email supposedly written by an outraged member of the public who supposedly witnessed the incident, was actually a policeman serving with the Diplomatic Protection Group. This was given to the Deputy Chief Whip, John Randall who handed it on, as he was obliged to do, to the Prime Minister's office. It smells very much like a stitch-up. Our country is indebted to Channel 4's Michael Crick.
This issue is no longer about Andrew Mitchell, though I personally hope he's returned to a senior position in the Gov't. Its about the integrity of the Metropolitan Police. How can we have reached the stage, in Britain, when serving police officers are thought to have tried to 'bring down' a Cabinet Minister' by a 'stitch-up'. When I sat through the Hillsborough Disaster Statement recently which outlined the most appalling behaviour of police officers, I thought it was 23 years ago and could not possibly happen today. But the superficial evidence suggests that on a smaller scale, it may well have done so. This issue goes to the heart of the integrity of the Metropolitan Police and there can be no issue more importent in the in-tray of the Met's Police Commissioner. We must be told what happened. And I suspect no-one feels that more than police officers in Dyfed Powys.