A key member of Prime Minister David Cameron's government quit Friday amid a simmering dispute over an incident last month in which he was accused of abusing police officers with foul language and derogatory remarks about working class people.
Andrew Mitchell, who was chief whip and attended cabinet, was accused by police of confronting them angrily after they asked him to get off his bicycle to pass through gates at Downing Street, the famous road where Cameron has his official London residence.
In an official record of the confrontation on Sept. 19, a police officer insisted Mitchell had sworn and used the words "moron" and "pleb" - a pejorative term for the working class. Mitchell acknowledged he had sworn, but bitterly denied using the other words.
The "pleb" remark put new pressure on Cameron's government, particularly as it carries out billions of dollars worth of cuts to public services and welfare programs - many of which are causing hardship to ordinary Britons. Pleb - short for plebeian - comes from the Latin plebeius, the mass of ordinary citizens apart from the elite of upper-class patricians.
Cameron's Conservative Party, which dominates the coalition government, is seen by many as elitist and lacking empathy with the poor. The leader has made huge efforts to overturn that image, but opponents point out that half the members of his Cabinet went to private schools - which educate about seven per cent of all Britons, while two-thirds are millionaires.
Mitchell was educated at the private Rugby school and had a career in banking after serving in the military and as a United Nations peacekeeper.
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