h1

The “Plebgate Aftermath”: A Sutton Coldfield by-election could now be nailed on

January 12th, 2014

Will Mitchell be resigning this year anyway?

The guilty plea in the trial of the PC who falsely made up evidence about the Plebgate affair has been used by Andrew Mitchell’s friends as vindication of his position.  It’s not quite that – if he wasn’t there then the substance of what was said remains disputed – but it hasn’t done anything for the police case.

Demands for Mitchell’s reinstatement to cabinet would be, however, unrealistic even if he is completely exonerated.  Apart from anything else, there aren’t any vacancies at the moment.  What Cameron will soon have to do though is nominate an EU commissioner.  Given that Mitchell has expressed his interest in that post in the past, he looks an ideal fit for what was never going to have been the easiest of nominations for the PM.

Apart from the internal party politics as to how Eurosceptic a nomination to make, there would be the tricky issue of a by-election were he to choose an MP – with all the risks of embarrassment and defeat.  The idea of a Lib Dem nomination is surely now off the table: the increasing differentiation between the coalition parties, the Tory reaction that would ensue, and the probable Lib Dem performance in the European elections all serve to rule it out.  A peer would solve the by-election question were there a suitable one available, but is there?

On the other hand, if there does have to be a by-election, Sutton Coldfield probably carries fewer risks than most constituencies, having been heavily Conservative since the nineteenth century, even in the Blair landslide elections of 1997 and 2001.  That’s not to say upsets can’t happen – Labour is in second place, albeit a long way back, and there is a sizable Lib Dem vote to squeeze, though it’s one that’s well established – but it would take an earthquake rather than a tremor.

David Herdson