Out of a desire to be sure, to my own satisfaction, about the provenance and accuracy of the ‘Plebgate’ footage that Andrew Mitchell claims ‘exonerates’ him, and which Channel 4′s ‘Dispatches‘ programme claims casts serious doubt on the police logbook’s account of the incident, I have come to two conclusions. Firm ones.
Firstly, the exterior footage shown by Dispatches is genuine footage. Secondly, the footage – while genuine – is edited and cut in such a way as to give a false impression of:
- the point at which Mr Mitchell started his ‘altercation’ with the police officers
- the amount of time he had to utter the now-infamous phrases, ‘f***ing plebs’, ‘you don’t run this f***ing country’ and ‘you should know your f***ing place’
- the number of people outside the gates as the altercation took place
I’ve watched the footage as shown by two separate programmes: Dispatches and Channel 4 News. The coverage by both programmes is available on Youtube, and I’m going to insert them both below so you can watch them directly.
In order to see what I’m referring to, you’ll need to watch specific sections of the video carefully and possibly repeatedly. But I believe you’ll find it more than worthwhile if you persevere and are genuinely interested to get at the truth of the incident and clear away all the ‘mud’ that has been stirred up to obscure it.
Here are the two videos in question:
Video 1: from the Dispatches programme
Video 2: from Channel 4 news
Hopefully they’ll show directly within the post. If not, you’ll need to open them in separate tabs or windows to view them.
I’ll address each of Mitchell’s/Channel 4′s claims in turn, but you’ll need to keep coming back to specific time-points in the videos to see for yourself what I’m referring to:
‘Exoneration 1: the point at which Mr Mitchell started his ‘altercation’
Dispatches suggests that the police report says that Mitchell starts his altercation as he walks his bike over to the gate and concludes that there is probably not enough time for him to say everything he is supposed to have said within those few seconds. It supports this by showing a clip with Mitchell’s voice-over saying ‘And this is where the alleged log-book says that the toxic phrases were uttered’.
Look at video no.1 from 44 seconds through to 55 seconds. 11 seconds in total. Perhaps not enough time to say all the infamous phrases - if the video accurately portrays what happened.
But – the Dispatches video that the voiceover accompanies starts from just before the back wheel of Mitchell’s bike hits the kerb.
Now look at video 2 from the 2m06s mark. According to Channel 4 news’ narrative to the video – which shows Mitchell approaching the kerb with his bike - this is the moment when his rant is said to have started.
However, watch closely how Mitchell gets his bike up the kerb – you’ll see it better if you switch the video to ‘full screen’ mode so you can watch the movements and his body-language more closely. It’s no exaggeration to say that Mitchell stomps up to the kerb, easily outpacing the policeman, and almost flings his bike up onto the kerb.
The pace, the way he throws the front wheel onto the kerb and the way he leaves the policeman trailing in his wake all strongly suggest that by the time we see Mitchell approaching the kerb in this close-up clip, the argument is already in full swing and is probably still continuing.
2. The amount of time
Still with video 2, scroll back to the 1 minute mark exactly. Mitchell reaches the police officers at this point on this video. He then talks to the officers for some time before eventually moving his bike toward the kerb and reaching it at the 1m39s point of the video (according to the Youtube clock – ignore the video’s own timer for now).
39 seconds is more than enough time for an irate man to utter all the phrases in question, and even more so if you add the 11 seconds from the point at which his bike hits the kerb to when he starts to exit the gate.
There is plenty of time. Even the C4 News voiceover repeating the phrases has time to complete them in just the time covered by the 11-second clip. Mitchell – an angry man, speaking quickly as angry men do, had plenty of time to say what he is accused of saying, and even more so given that the argument appears to be well underway by the time we see him come into view.
3. The witnesses
Now here’s where I need to ask you to pay really close attention, and to show a lot of patience. First, let’s look at the segment of CCTV footage that Mitchell claims shows there are very few people outside the gate. You can see this in either of the above videos, but you’ll probably see it best in video 2, from 3m06s. Watch through as a lady walks past from the bottom of the screen to the top, and then a man in white shoes and carrying a black rucksack walks in the same direction, pauses and then walks back in the direction he’s just come.
This man appears around 3m18s, reaches the point at which he pauses at 3m26s, turns back at 3m37s, and reaches the lamp-post near the bottom of the frame at 3m47s.
The first question we have to ask is: what causes him to slow, then stop, then stand still, then walk slowly back where he came so that the scene behind the gates is in view and within earshot? Would an ‘amicable’ conversation, followed by a single phrase, muttered ‘in exasperation’ as Mitchell claims, ‘I thought you guys were supposed to f***ing help us‘ REALLY hold this man’s attention, for at least 21 seconds, and enough to get him to change direction just in order not to miss the show?
Now I need you to look at a different view. Please look at video 1 this time, from the 1m15s mark – again, it’s best to look at this in full-screen view. As soon as you get to the right point, pause the video – right at the moment where the close-up clip starts.
Look at the paused image. Through the fence, just to the left of the gatehouse, you can see our man wearing the white shoes and carrying the black backpack – already turned and on his way back. Because the high-angle CCTV view doesn’t show Mitchell exiting the gate, this frame is essential for fixing the time of what we’re seeing in this view from within Downing Street.
Channel 4 – for whatever reason – blurred out the timestamp on the footage showing the street outside the gate from above. But, thanks to our fascinated ‘boomerang’ passer-by, we can with an extremely high degree of certainty that Mitchell’s altercation is well underway by the time that he starts to move toward the kerb with his bike. This reinforces the fact that Mitchell had plenty of time to say all he is supposed to have said to the officers, and for them to say all they are supposed to have said to him.
But that’s not all. Remember that by the time Mitchell is walking his bike to the kerb, his discussion – and then altercation – with the officers has already been going for 39 seconds.
But the lady who walks ahead of our ‘boomerang’ witness only starts to leave the fenced area at 3m10s – only 27 seconds before boomerang-man starts walking back. This adds a 2nd potential witness. But the police log said there were ‘several members of the public present’. Two isn’t several.
No – nor does it need to be. There are two more potential witnesses within the right time-frame. Back to video 1. Watch the top left corner of the image from the 1m20s mark. What appears to be two further passers-by appear, walking left to right. Still with video 1 (again, full-screen works best), go forward to the 2m0s mark.
Mitchell’s self-serving voice-over says that the police log talks of ‘crowds of people’ witnessing the scene – but remember, it actually says ‘several’, not ‘crowds’.
Viewing from the 2m mark, we again see boomerang-man making his way to his pause-point, pause, and then turn and walk back. But at the 2m11s mark, two women (probably women) are clearly seen walking in the same direction as b-man is now travelling, toward the bottom of the frame.
Now back to 1m15s again. Watch b-man’s progress outside the gate. He reaches the lamp-post before Mitchell exits the gate.
The video is cut off by Mitchell and/or C4 before he reaches the lamp-post, but even so, the women are already crossing the road outside the gate well before b-man reaches the lamp-post – and so are well within sight and earshot of the events behind the fence while Mitchell’s tirade is still underway.
B-man, the first lady, and the 2 passers-by walking together. 4 witnesses, which clearly qualifies as ‘several’. The log refers to the members of the public appearing shocked – but it’s perfectly likely that boomerang-man was sufficiently shocked to make an impression on the officer who wrote up the incident. Sufficiently that he conflated b-man’s shock with the appearance of the other passers-by, even if those other witnesses didn’t appear shocked, which the footage by no means demonstrates.
One more thing to watch, and then we’re done. Go to video 1 at 1m32s. You see Mitchell go through the gate and then the policeman closing it. At 1m36s, you see another 2 passers-by appear from behind the pedestrian gate, outside the fence. 4 seconds.
4 seconds. The police log states:
Mr MITCHELL was then silent and left saying “you haven’t heard the last of this” as he cycled off.
As he cycled off. Those two passers-by were almost certainly witnesses to at least this parting remark, and quite possibly to more. They don’t appear on the high-angle footage – but the high-angle footage doesn’t even show the pedestrian gate through which Mitchell exited, so it wouldn’t show these two people.
Mitchell and his allies – including, apparently, Channel 4 – claim that the video footage ‘exonerates’ him, because it supposedly shows he couldn’t have said what he is claimed to have said, nor were the witnesses there as the police report states.
But, by going through the footage, from both angles, over and over, second by second, I believe I’ve been able to show that none of the supposedly-exonerating points is actually borne out by the CCTV footage, and that the accusations against the police at the gate are unfounded.
By all means, take a look at the key sections and decide for yourself. I think it speaks for itself.