Andrew Mitchell affair is a nightmare for the Tories

Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell Photo: David Jones/PA Wire

So it looks like David Cameron is going to stick by his chief whip Andrew Mitchell.

My colleague Libby Wiener, who has just got off a plane to New York with the Prime Minister, reports that the mood music coming from the business class section was that Mr Mitchell will survive.

Which is good for him, but possibly not for the Tories. This has really been a nightmare scenario for Downing Street.

Mr Cameron can't easily sack Mr Mitchell. I mean, what has he actually done wrong? He lost his temper, said a few things he shouldn't have done and has since apologised. He is hardly the first individual to swear at a police officer in frustration and it wouldn't seem proportionate to ruin his career over it.

And yet, as we all know, there is so much more to it than that. The alleged use of the word pleb 'hits' the Tories in their weakest spot. Mr Mitchell's continued presence will now act as a totemic reminder of what it is so many people most dislike about the party.

Whether he does or does not deserve such opprobrium is beside the point. The reality is that too many voters are inclined to believe the worst of a man such as him in a circumstance such as this. And every time they look at him, they'll be reminded of that fact.