The “Plebgate” row over last month’s utterances by Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell rumbled on over the weekend, as Police Federation chiefs locked horns with MPs over a lack of resolution to the saga. For West Mercia Federation boss Ken Mackaill, Mitchell’s ongoing refusal to confirm that he used the word “plebs” against officers on the Downing Street beat means that he is effectively lying, and should therefore resign.
But Justice secretary Chris Grayling, Defence secretary Philip Hammond and Tory Party chairman Grant Schapps all weighed against Police Federation pressure, accusing the organisation variously of hijacking the controversy, bandwagoneering and obscuring debate over current challenges to policing. Mitchell, meanwhile, is expected to have a rough ride this week as MPs return to Westminster in the wake of the conference season. Will Mitchell be able to withstand continued opposition scrutiny?
New BBC director general George Entwistle has come under fire for his approach to managing the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal. Following criticism of a Friday press conference on the affair – in which Entwistle appeared uncertain, defensive and the image of an institutionalised BBC wonk – other TV staffers and bosses took issue with his stance over a canned Newsnight segment that had sought to investigate Savile’s conduct.
While Entwistle said that he had no direct input on the segment, an unnamed newsroom source is quoted as saying that Newsnight editor Peter Rippon had done “everything he could” to hinder the item, and that it “defies credibility” that Entwistle – then head of BBC Vision – would not have known more about it than he’d claimed. Former Channel 5 chief executive David Elstein said that Entwistle would have had to be “pretty brain dead” not to have tried to learn more about the segment.
UK environmental agencies have been accused of getting too close to corporations and becoming mouthpieces for “de-risking” proposed drilling operations in the Polar regions. However, National Environment Research Council (NERC) boss Duncan Wingham said that the accusations were too severe, but admitted that there was a perception problem. “It is not the function of NERC to take a policy decision,” he said, “but to provide scientific information upon which someone else can make such a decision. There is no question there is a perceived tension between the regulatory approach to retaining a clean environment and on the other hand [the UK's] need to provide new energy supplies.”
A blockbuster-inspired theme park planned by film studio Paramount to take over a derelict industrial site in north Kent has been welcomed by regional leaders. The proposed development could provide 27,000 jobs in an area where unemployment stands at more than 11%. Kent Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jo James said: “The announcement took us by surprise – but what a positive surprise. These opportunities are few and far between. We have to seize this and make sure no red tape gets in the way. I hope it will be embraced by all sectors in the community. We have high unemployment rates so 27,000 jobs will transform the area and have a long lasting impact.”
Football Association bosses have taken a hammering for charging a ticket price of £190 for children to visit the organisation’s new Centre of Excellence in Staffordshire. Opened last week to much fanfare by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the facility is touted as a breeding ground for the football talents of tomorrow. Shadow sports minister Clive Efford attacked the fee, saying: “You can’t believe the FA would charge that. We can’t exclude young footballers on price.”
Tory Food secretary Owen Paterson has been ridiculed for providing his civil servants with a grammar guide for internal communications. Staffers have been handed a stack of pernickety directives, including “maximise the use of semicolons to link related clauses … there should be a verb either side of the semicolon … [and] you will only ever get away with one set of brackets in a sentence”. Paterson’s Labour counterpart said: “Instead of obsessing over every dot and comma he should be getting a grip on his department.”