By Ian Dunt
Andrew Mitchell and Downing Street have entered into a damaging war of words, as the former chief whip suggested the government tried to play down an alleged conspiracy by police officers.
In a surprisingly colourful and angry response to his 'plebgate' saga, Mitchell accused No 10 of dragging its feet over handing him the CCTV footage and falsely relying on national security arguments to prevent him being able to fight his corner.
"I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that," Mitchell told Channel 4's Dispatches.
"I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up.
"It was quite a frustrating experience. I do not think the arguments about national security were genuine."
Mitchell asked to see CCTV footage on the day he resigned, but it was only provided to him nearly three weeks later.
The Sutton Coldfield MP believes that footage – together with an email supposedly from an eyewitness account which may have actually been written by a police officer – could have cleared his name.
"I think that it would have been discovered quite early on that something was quite seriously wrong with this and I suppose, had that happened, I might still be in government today," he said.
Downing Street released a surprisingly hostile response to the interview, which will be shown tonight.
"The prime minister wanted to keep Andrew Mitchell in his job, and was very supportive of him," a spokesperson said.
"At the time Andrew Mitchell apologised to the police and chose not to make a complaint to the IPCC [the Independent Police Complaints Commission] - a path which was always available to him.
"The prime minister takes full responsibility for the way the case was handled and has said repeatedly that what matters now is that the police get to the bottom of this matter."
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By Ian Dunt
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