UK & World News
Mitchell Row: Clegg Backs Chief Whip
Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell's chances of clinging on to his job have been bolstered after Nick Clegg suggested he should be allowed to "draw a line" under his verbal attack on Downing Street police.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the Tory enforcer had been "wrong" to lose his temper when officers stopped him riding his bike through the main gates outside No 10.
But he said if no new revelations emerged about the confrontation Mr Mitchell should be able to remain in his post.
Mr Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: "Unless something comes to light about the rival versions, about what was and what was not said that I don't know about, I think he should apologise in full - he's done that, that's right - and draw a line under it in that way."
The Tory MP has reportedly admitted swearing at the officers but insists he did not call them "plebs".
He concedes that he said "f******" when a member of Scotland Yard's Diplomatic Protection Group refused to let him cycle out through the main Downing Street gates, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
Mr Mitchell is reported to have said: "Look, I'm the Chief Whip, I work at Number 9 (Downing Street)," before muttering: "You guys are supposed to f****** help us."
A friend of the minister told the newspaper: "He does not dispute he lost it a bit.
"It was in frustration at the episode and not aimed directly at the officers.
"It was the fourth time he had been at Downing Street that day - he is frequently allowed to use the main gate on his bike.
"He is absolutely not accusing anyone of lying."
It comes just a day after Mr Mitchell issued a statement denying using "any of the words that have been reported".
The friend added: "He realises there may be differing versions of what was said but he is adamant he did not use the words he is reported to have used."
Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles admitted Mr Mitchell had been wrong but said he should not lose his job for having a "bad temper".
The Cabinet minister said the chief whip was "very clear he did not use the word pleb".
"I cannot recall Mr Mitchell in the time that I've been with him ever using such a word," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics.
"He has never used it in my presence, but then I am very proud myself to be a pleb."
Mr Pickles went on: "I think Andrew now should be given the opportunity to start the process of being a good chief whip... I don't believe somebody should lose public office merely because they use inappropriate words and showed bad temper.
"Here we have a guy on a bicycle who lost his rag."
Mr Mitchell has faced calls to resign over the tirade, which proved acutely embarrassing for Prime Minister David Cameron.
The row was made public on the day Mr Cameron headed to Manchester to pay his respects to murdered PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone.
Mr Cameron was told to take responsibility for the Tory enforcer's behaviour by the widow of murdered police officer Sharon Beshenivsky, and Labour called on him to "urgently" review the evidence.
Conservative Nick de Bois warned on Saturday that Mr Mitchell was in "deep trouble" if evidence emerged disputing his version of events.