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Imagine the scenario – a young adult, after being told to ride his bike elsewhere, swears at the police and calls them ‘plebs’. It becomes public knowledge. And what would the government brand this young adult as? A hooligan, maybe? A yob? But swap the young adult for Andrew Mitchell MP, Chief Whip, and the government are all too happy to excuse his obscene language because he apologised to the police involved.
Mitchell’s battle with the police seems to have taken things to a new level. Mitchell has remained undisciplined so far after abusing police when they refused to allow him to ride through the security gates at Downing Street. Whilst his job as Chief Whip includes disciplining members of the Conservative Party (in order to make sure that they are doing their jobs in Cabinet properly), Mitchell has refused to admit to what he specifically said to the police, and has not, ironically, been punished himself.
It thus seems unfair that Mitchell has so far been able to escape punishment over something that, in a young adult, would be described as “yobbish”. Prime Minister David Cameron has already declared that Mitchell’s apology is sufficient to allow him to carry on with his job, and defends Mitchell’s position within government. Yet it begs the question: would a young adult, having done a similar thing, be able to placate the Prime Minister with an apology? I think not, Mr Cameron. The media would soon be raging about the declining standards of behaviour amongst teenagers, with screams for ASBOs to be reintroduced and a crackdown on anti-social behaviour. So why aren’t we fighting for Mitchell to be punished in a similar way?
That certainly seems to be the police’s point of view. Ken Mackaill, the chairman of the West Mercia Police Federation, said that the police “appreciate[s] being able to talk to Mr Mitchell and put our concerns directly to him,” but that these concerns “haven’t been addressed.” The lack of punishment concerning Mitchell’s use of swearing and the rather offensive term ‘pleb’ is, apparently, almost being condoned as acceptable to say to police, so long as you apologise afterwards. This clearly shouldn’t be the case; politicians need to actively discourage such language use, whether it comes from a young adult or from an MP.
In addition, the use of the word ‘pleb’ itself appears to be completely disproportionate to the Conservative Party’s so-called policy of ‘we’re all in this together’. Andrew Mitchell has managed to reinforce the traditional view of the Tory Party as being upper class and the political party for the rich in a single word. Just when you thought Mitchell’s hypocrisy couldn’t get any worse, the first offensive word that comes to his mind is ‘pleb’, a deliberate derogatory term for those of a lower class. Surely this isn’t demonstrative of ‘we’re all in this together’ – as far as Andrew Mitchell is concerned, the lower classes are still people to be scorned. As far as I’m concerned though, the only person who should be scorned in this situation is Mr Mitchell himself.
I’m sure many students would agree that such behaviour coming from an eminent MP, such as Andrew Mitchell, is unacceptable, particularly at a time where relationships between young adults and politicians continue to be strained. It is indeed frustrating to see this abusive language over something so trivial from somebody in such a position of power, when many of us are struggling to make ends meet and would give anything to be earning a similar salary to him.
It is only right that an adult, doing something of a similar “yobbish” standard, is treated in a similar way. In an age where youths always seem to bear a lot of criticism from the government and the media alike, it is disappointing to see such hypocrisy from MPs who are supposed to be leading our country through these difficult economic times. We surely cannot allow any more of these ‘blips’, or our government will be turning into something of a farce.