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Lord Bates: Whatever Andrew Mitchell said was wrong - but he has been punished and should be allowed to move on


Lord Bates of Langbaurgh was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Langbaurgh 1992-7, and Paymaster General 1996-7.

During his five years in charge of the International Development brief for the Conservative Party in Opposition and two in government, Andrew Mitchell did more than anyone before to change the approach to development aid. He brought to an often over-sentimental development world of jargon and waffle a direct and rigorous approach for testing and enhancing the effectiveness of aid. It is a role which was and is internationally acknowledged.

Mr Mitchell’s tenure in charge of this brief was characterised by a hands on approach - when a humanitarian crisis would emerge he would not rely on second-hand news reports and diplomatic telegrams, he would instead go out there in person - Syria/Jordan, Pakistan, Libya, Haiti, Afghanistan and Somalia. Often he would put himself in positions of great personal risk in order to understand the exact needs of the people he was seeking to help. This is characteristic of a man who began his career not as a politico but serving in Africa as a UN peacekeeper.

One of his most notable actions was to establish a social action programme in the Conservative Party called Project Umubano which delivers education, healthcare and business training in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Hundreds of party activists and parliamentarians have travelled out to Africa to deliver high quality practical assistance to thousands of people in war-torn communities. It transformed the Conservative Party’s thinking on poverty and aid and our responsibility to those in greatest need in our world.

Mr Mitchell is a courageous man not afraid to stand up for unfashionable views - he faced down critics of the overseas aid programme in the Conservative Party not because he believed the cause was popular but because he believed the cause to be right. He is someone who gets quickly exasperated by bureaucrats and officialdom. He is direct. I doubt he could spell the word expedient let alone act it. He is impatient for progress. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly; in fact he doesn’t suffer them at all. He is not one for schmoozing and gossiping with journalists or colleagues around the Westminster Village. He is there to deliver on a mission, not to court popular opinion. He takes that responsibility very seriously, some say too seriously. All these social faults combined to make him a highly effective minister.

Whatever Mr Mitchell said at the gates of Downing Street it was clearly inappropriate, insensitive and wrong. He immediately offered a fulsome apology directly to those concerned and according to reports in the media this apology was immediately accepted. It has been a wretched couple of weeks for the police service. Had this incident happened at another time it may have been a different story. Had the incident happened at another time, who knows - the gates may have been opened.

Mr Mitchell has received his punishment through being publicly admonished by the Prime Minister and humiliated on the front page of The Sun - surely that is sufficient for this type of offence? I for one believe Mr Mitchell should now be allowed to carry on with his important role in government, but told to leave his @*!*#!@ bike at home in future. 


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