Beleaguered Tory Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell has flatly denied calling police officers "plebs" during a furious altercation in Downing Street.
The Conservative Party enforcer insisted that he did not use the politically explosive jibe, despite reports that police logbooks showed he did call officers "plebs" and swore at them repeatedly.
Appearing in front of the cameras for the first time since news of his outburst broke last week, Mr Mitchell reiterated his apology to the police and appealed for a line to be drawn under the matter.
However, a senior Police Federation representative accused him of impugning the integrity of the officers involved and called on Prime Minister David Cameron to mount a full inquiry into what happened.
Arriving for work in Whitehall, Mr Mitchell acknowledged that he had not shown the police "the amount of respect I should have done" during the confrontation on Wednesday evening. But pressed by reporters on whether he called the officers "plebs", he said: "I want to make it absolutely clear that I did not use the words that have been attributed to me."
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg piled on the pressure, calling on him explain "fully and in detail" what happened during the altercation after officers refused to allow him to cycle through the main gates of Downing Street.
The Sun, which broke the original story, reported that it had now seen a police report of the incident, prepared for senior officers, which showed that he did call the officers "plebs" as well as swearing repeatedly. The report was said to be backed up by at least two officers making the same verbatim note of the exchange in their pocket books
Mr Mitchell, who turned up outside the Cabinet Office in a VW Polo, accepted that he should not have spoken to the officers in the way that he did, but said that should be the end of the matter.
"It had been the end of a long and extremely frustrating day - not that that is any excuse at all for what happened," he said. "I didn't show the police the amount of respect I should have done. We should all respect the police, they do an incredibly difficult job. I have apologised to the police, I have apologised to the police officer involved on the gate and he's accepted my apology and I hope very much that we can draw a line under it there."
However, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, John Tully, said Mr Mitchell was effectively accusing the officers of lying and called on Mr Cameron to hold an investigation. He told Sky News: "Clearly Mr Mitchell is denying using certain words, effectively now impugning the integrity of the police officers. I think that is very serious. I think the Prime Minister or Downing Street officials should hold an inquiry and if Mr Mitchell is proved to have lied, then he should be sacked."