Britain: Plebgate and Traingate

Andrew Mitchell
Andrew Mitchell


by  Michael Shrimpton

There are political developments in my country as well as yours.  The hated Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, known at Rugby School as “Thrasher” (a good name for a Whip) was forced to resign on Friday. 

A junior government whip during the Maastricht Treaty rebellion and the ‘mastermind’ who made a mess of David Davis’s leadership campaign against Cameron, he will not be missed by the Tory Right.  This is well understood in the States.

The impact of Traingate however may not yet have made its way across the pond.  On Friday afternoon George Osborne, the pro-EU Chancellor of the Exchequer and the chap who decided it would be a good idea to have another recession, boarded a first-class railroad carriage at Wilmslow Cheshire whilst only in possession of a second-class ticket.  That much is not is in dispute.

Number 11 and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains are saying that an aide approached the train manager and asked for upgrades to first class, costing around $300.  Unhappily for the Chancellor an ITN journalist was also traveling in first class, with a ticket.  She reported via Twitter that there was an altercation and that the Chancellor’s aide insisted that he be allowed to travel without the correct ticket.

The significance of this incident is greater than it might appear.  Wilmslow is a manned station.  To board the trains you first have to go thru the booking office.  Osborne is open to the accusation that he deliberately went into a first class carriage without a ticket and without intending to buy one.  It is already being reported that a similar incident happened in May.  To ride in first class with a second class ticket is to commit a fraud upon the revenues of the railway.

This is viewed with particular seriousness in my country.  Thanks to the EU motorway travel is unpleasant, due to the number of trucks bringing in imports from Europe.   The EU also forces us to have ludicrous weight limits (for our roads – around 90,000 lbs) and their heavy trucks break up the road surface.  Partly thanks to mass immigration, not least from the EU, our trains are overcrowded.

Train operators like Virgin also have to pay silly track access fees, thanks to the absurd EU Rail Directive.  This means they have to raise extra revenue by reducing seat pitch.  Second-class coaches can therefore get quite crowded.  Thanks to Osborne’s recession and our membership of the EU the economy has tanked.  Second class is all that many hard-working folk can afford.  Even barristers travel second-class these days!

Working class people who have sweated to pay for their tickets are welcome in First Class.  They are well-behaved by and large and tend not to suffer from class envy, unless they’re Labour politicians or trade union leaders.  If wearing a cap they will usually remember to doff it if they encounter a peer of the realm, a baronet, a barrister, or someone else entitled to bear arms.

If a distressed gentleman is riding without a first class ticket (obviously a gentleman would pay for his ticket if he could afford it) an experienced conductor would normally be prepared to overlook the matter.  Jumped-up middle class oiks, full of envy of the upper middle and upper classes, are a different thing altogether.

This is especially true if they have a low-status occupation like Osborne.  The Chancellor’s position may not be tenable, although the timing of the Mitchell resignation has have given him some leeway.  If Osborne follows Mitchell, Cameron and Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, will be exposed.

The conductor by the way has won widespread praise for his handling of a tricky situation, as have Virgin Trains.  Well done him and well done Sir Richard Branson, who is a gent.

The turn-around in Governor Romney’s fortunes has been remarkable.  It looks as though even Pennsylvania is now in play.  Viewed from our side of the Atlantic, only Ohio of the swing states looks doubtful for Romney at this time.

I respectfully agree with Gordon that there may be an October surprise, even though the SR-71’s have been retired (sadly!).  Since Iran already has plutonium nukes and the enriched uranium program is a blind she may agree to give up the uranium program in order to help Obama.   Such a deal would not be credible however, and risks knowledge of Iran’s possession of operational nukes going public.

I am always prepared to learn something new.  In the world of intelligence you should always keep your appreciation under review.  If the facts change, you change your opinion.  Sticking to a position in the face of the evidence is a job for politicians, especially Democrats.

It is reported in today’s Daily Telegraph that Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his latest movie, has gone “inside the mind of L. Ron Hubbard.”  I never knew he had one.




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Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University. Read Articles from Michael Shrimpton; Read Michael Shrimptons' Full Complete Bio >>>