Andrew Mitchell’s tirade against police officers has exposed the “unpleasant” truth about the Government’s attitude towards ordinary working people, Ed Miliband has claimed.
The Labour leader rejected pleas from Conservatives to “draw a line” under the affair following a public apology from the Sutton Coldfield MP.
Mr Mitchell has denied calling police “plebs” and claimed yesterday that the row had been “blown out of all proportion’’ by the media.
The MP said: “I have apologised and I hope it’s possible to draw a line under it. I think most people who know me know I would not use words like pleb or moron in describing anyone. I would gently point out that I did not say the words that have been ascribed to me.”
Mr Mitchell echoed his initial apology and added: ‘‘I hope my constituents and friends in Sutton Coldfield will not recognise the hideous caricature that has been portrayed in some of the tabloid press.
‘‘I have an excellent relationship with the police whom I know well and whom I always go to see at Christmas time to thank for their services to the people of Sutton.
‘‘I go round the police station and thank all the police who are on duty before Christmas for keeping us safe and sound throughout the year.’’
But Mr Miliband said: “I think there are still unanswered questions about Andrew Mitchell as to what he said.
“We know what he denies saying. We don’t actually know what he admits to saying.
“I think it’s a pretty disgraceful affair because people will ask, why is a cabinet minister talking to police men and women and people who put themselves in the line every day in the way that he did?
“And I think it’s a really unpleasant window on to some of the attitudes of this government.”
Mr Miliband was speaking in the run-up to his party’s conference in Manchester, where the theme will be “rebuilding Britain”.
He announced plans to chair a youth jobs taskforce, which will involve Labour MPs and councils.
And he praised Birmingham City Council for introducing a minimum “living wage” for staff of £7.20 an hour, higher than the statutory minimum wage of £6.08.
More than 2,5000 Birmingham young people have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year.
Mr Miliband said: “I will be chairing a youth jobs taskforce, now in opposition, to work with local authorities all around the country, to work with Labour MPs to say ‘what can we do now to make a difference to youth unemployment?’
“Because there are great examples from around the country of how Labour local councils are doing that.”
The national initiative, to be launched during the party conference by Birmingham MP Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill), Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, builds on Birmingham’s Labour council’s decision to launch its own youth unemployment commission earlier this year.
“The next Labour manifesto is going to be shaped by Labour councils like Birmingham that are pioneering for example the living wage for its employees, that are saying youth jobs are a priority,’’ said Mr Miliband.