Thursday, 4 October 2012 9:42 AM
Andrew Mitchell pulled out of going to the Tory party conference today, amid continued controversy over his 'plebs' outburst.
The chief whip's decision to skip the conference is doubly embarrassing because he is one of the Tories' few MPs with a seat in Birmingham.
"Andrew Mitchell is running scared," Labour's Tom Watson commented.
"It's ridiculous that the chief whip would rather dodge his own party conference, on the doorstep of his Sutton Coldfield constituency, rather than do what is right."
Friends said he did not want to be a distraction, although he may also have been motivated by a desire to escape the mockery and satire which has surrounded the row.
Several speakers at the Liberal Democrat and Labour conferences took time out from their speeches to berate the former international development secretary over the last two weeks.
Yesterday shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told the Labour party conference in Manchester: "Once again it's one rule for the Cabinet, another for the plebs. So out of touch they aren't fit to govern.
"So come on conference, let's bring on the plebiscite. Plebs of the world unite, we have nothing to lose but this government."
Mitchell did have good reason to be concerned. TV news stations had planned to send camera teams to follow him at conference constantly asking about the row.
Mitchell is alleged by the police outside Downing Street to have shouted: "Best you learn your f***ing place... you don't run this f***ing government... you're f***ing plebs."
A controversy is also growing around Mitchell over why he used his last day as international development secretary to authorise a £16 million handout to Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, despite opposition from his own civil servants.
Experts said the decision to grant the money to a man accused of inflaming civil war cast Britain's commitment to human rights into doubt.