by Ray Fleming

In the best of times, with a big parliamentary majority, the job of the government's Chief Whip is not easy. In times such as the Conservatives are currently experiencing -- falling in the polls, some ninety awkward backbenchers who have seen Chief Whips come and go, and a dodgy coalition -- it must be very testing especially during your first weeks in the job. Even so, none of these pressures explain the unbecoming behaviour of Andrew Mitchell, made Chief Whip in the recent Cabinet re-shuffle, as he tried to leave Downing Street on his bicycle by the street's main gate but was asked by the police to use a different exit. Perhaps things had not gone as they should have done at Prime Minister's Questions but for whatever reason Mitchell started to shout at the police on duty. According to the Sun newspaper he said (edited language edition), “Best you learn your place. You don't run the government. You're plebs.” Mr Cameron has reprimanded Mitchell and he has apologised personally to the police. But if his reported words are reasonably accurate this is another damning instance of the out-of-touch mind-set of too many of Mr Cameron's Cabinet of millionaires, of which Mitchell is one. Mitt Romney comes to mind.

In the Daily Telegraph yesterday Iain Martin said he would be surprised if Mitchell keeps his job.