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Clegg bolsters Mitchell's chances
Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell's chances of clinging on to his job have been bolstered after Nick Clegg suggested he should be allowed to "draw a line" under his verbal attack on Downing Street police.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the Tory enforcer had been "wrong" to lose his temper when officers stopped him riding his bike through the main gates outside Number 10.
But he said if no new revelations emerged about the confrontation Mr Mitchell should be able to remain in his post.
Mr Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: "Unless something comes to light about the rival versions, about what was and what was not said that I don't know about, I think he should apologise in full - he's done that, that's right - and draw a line under it in that way."
Told that the alleged use of the word "pleb" had caused most anger, Mr Clegg replied: "Of course, of course and he has apologised for it and quite right too."
The Liberal Democrat leader added: "I think civility, being courteous to the police is important at all times but of course it is especially important given the tragic events, the killing of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes. What Andrew Mitchell did was wrong, very wrong. He knows that and he has apologised to the police and explained himself. They (the public) are angry and I can understand that they think it is just plain wrong to be discourteous and rude to the police, who are only doing their job after all."
It comes after claims the Chief Whip admits swearing at No 10 police officers but insists he did not call them "plebs".
The Tory enforcer concedes that he said "f******" when a member of Scotland Yard's Diplomatic Protection Group, SO6, refused to let him cycle out through the main Downing Street gates, according to The Sunday Telegraph. Mr Mitchell is reported to have said: "Look, I'm the chief whip, I work at Number 9 (Downing Street)," before muttering: "You guys are supposed to f****** help us."
A friend of the minister told the newspaper: "He does not dispute he lost it a bit. It was in frustration at the episode and not aimed directly at the officers. It was the fourth time he had been at Downing Street that day - he is frequently allowed to use the main gate on his bike. He is absolutely not accusing anyone of lying." When allegations about the tirade were published on Friday, Mr Mitchell issued a statement denying using "any of the words that have been reported". The friend added: "He realises there may be differing versions of what was said but he is adamant he did not use the words he is reported to have used."
Mr Mitchell has faced calls to resign over the angry rant, which proved acutely embarrassing for Prime Minister David Cameron when details emerged as he headed to Manchester on Friday to pay his respects to murdered Pcs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone. John Tully, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, has called on Mr Mitchell to quit over his "abusive" outburst.