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Will there be a "showdown" between Andrew Mitchell and the '22 this week?

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2012-10-15 at 15.06.19Ring, ring.  Ring, ring.  It's a senior source from the 1922 Committee's Executive on the phone, denouncing the Telegraph's story about a "showdown" between the '22 and Andrew Mitchell.  The paper reports that the '22 "will meet to discuss any concerns they have over Mr Mitchell, and other issues, on Wednesday. One senior MP said that a delegation from the committee would then meet with Mr Mitchell to relay details from the meeting".

My source points out that there is a meeting of the '22 - in other words, of all Tory backbenchers - every Wednesday when the Commons is sitting, and that it is is followed by a further meeting of the '22's officers and the Chief Whip.  In other words, my source argues, there will be no special meeting of the '22 to discuss Mr Mitchell's plight: indeed, it may not be discussed at all.  So there may be a showdown, and there may not be a showdown.

On the one hand, my source is right to point all this out; on the other, there's rather more to the matter. The paper reports "growing anger among [the '22's] executive" over the way the story has run and run, and quotes that senior MP as saying that Mitchell "is not a credible figure...He is doing so much reputational damage to the party and to David Cameron.  We are not happy with Andrew Mitchell. Locally, everybody is asking questions: "Why is this guy still in a job?"

Hmm.  If the Telegraph reports anger among the '22 executive then I reckon that there is anger among the '22 executive.  Without wanting to follow in the footsteps of John Major - who turned in his latter Downing Street days into a Sherlock Holmesian figure, deducing from newspaper reports who had briefed whom against him - it looks to me as though the paper has spoken to a '22 Executive source.  Can I suggest that these '22 sources try speaking to one another?

In any event, the Chief Whip usually sits at the back of Committee Room 14 during the weekly '22 meeting, surrounded by a phalanx of fellow Whips, observing the contributions of his colleagues.  Or so Patrick McLoughlin, Andrew Robothan (then his Deputy) and John Randall (then the pairing whip) did when I was an MP, looking for all the world like a three wise monkeys tribute act.

I very much doubt, therefore, whether the Mitchell affair will be raised in the '22 on Wednesday afternoon, unless some helpful stooge - sorry, independent-minded backbencher - clambers to his feet so that the Chief Whip can be supported and the media briefed to this effect afterwards.  But you never know.  The '22's Executive will also meet this week, and it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall.  I think Mr Mitchell shouldn't be driven out and have said so here.

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