What is the plebgate scandal?

In the UK, Plebgate is a scandal that arose in September 2012 after the ex-Conservative Chief Whip (someone who ensures their party votes and does how their party desires) Andrew Mitchell swore at the police and called them ‘plebs’ – a pejorative term for someone of low social class – after being refused to go through a gate into Downing Street. Although he apologised for swearing he denied that he called the police ‘plebs’, but he later resigned as Chief Whip. However, there is an investigation underway due to recent evidence and CCTV footage calling into evidence the reports of the incidence.

The Doubts Of The Police Evidence

In December 2012 the CCTV footage was released which Mitchell stated supported his view of how the events unfolded. An email was sent from a police offer which stated that “there were several members of the public” present during the incident involving Mitchell and the police and that they appeared “visibly shocked”. However, the CCTV footage shows no members of the public – later the policeman who supposedly sent the message claimed that the email was fake and he had not been present during the incident.

Operation Alice

There has been an outcry for a full investigation into the events of the ‘plebgate’ scandal with the Metropolitan police stating that there are 30 officers holding an investigation called ‘Operation Alice’. So far there have been 2 arrests from within the police force causing many people to redefine the scandal as ‘plodgate’ (‘plod’ is British slang for police) rather than ‘plebgate’.


The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that he is “open minded” about the incident as it is “yet to be proven” whether the incident did actually occur. When addressing MPs today (Tuesday 8th January) he told them that it be “very serious” if the police involved had told lies or made up evidence.

The Police Federation has been high profile and aggressive in its public relations since the coalition announced its programme of cuts in 2010. This incident could have been used by the Police Federation to push their response to police cuts and retain the sympathy of the public as well as to secure the resignation of Mitchell himself. We do not know yet if their tactics and their claims were legitimate or that a small incident was exploited as part of a bigger stunt in their negotiations with government over policies affecting them which they deeply disagree with, but we will have to see – if a group manage to get a Cabinet Minister to resign then that is real political power being shown here.

What are your views on the incident?

Thanks for reading,

Digestible Politics


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