Thursday, October 06, 2011


'Catgate' Reveals Shortcomings of Coalition Government

I'm not sure which is the correct image of Maya the Cat but it doesn't really matter if the feline is Larry or even the late Humphrey, the argument is more importantly about the Human Rights Act. Ken Clarke, the Justice Minister, is a staunch defender of the HRA while Theresa May, his superior in the pecking order, thinks the act should be replaced by a British Bill of Rights (to which one is tempted to reply 'we already have one, vintage 1689).

As an academic it's embarrassing to be caught out making a foolish factual error, but for a Home Secretary, in front of an audience of millions, it is pretty unforgivable. Whoever told her it was absolutely the case that a Bolivian man had not been deported because he owned a cat. I wouldn't like to be that aide who fed in that one. May must be furious. Mind you, shouldn't she have checked it out properly herself...? Most of us lowly plebs would have done I'm sure.

No less, moreover as Ken chose to use his gift for rough language(and don't our tribe love him for it...) to her distinct disadvantage:

"We have a policy and in my old-fashioned way when you serve in a government you express a collective policy of the government, you don't go round telling everyone your personal opinion is different. I sat and listened to Theresa's speech and I'll have to be very polite to Theresa when I meet her, but in my opinion she should really address her researchers and advisers very severely for assuring her that a complete nonsense example in her speech was true."

We learn Ken has now apologised for what he said, but 'Catgate' it does suggest: government ministers are no more competent than their in many cases woeful predecessors; and there is a substantial Cabinet rift over the future of the HRA. The Lib Dems, of course venerate the act, drafted, as it was on the best jurisprudence and practice of British lawyers in the wake of the war.

For an excellent comment on the 'catflap' see Jonathan Freedland and this article from the Independent citing Attorney General Dominic Grieve's defence of the HR.

It's not about competence. The judge used the cat to support a ridiculous decision. Fact. I suspect Ken will soon pay the price for his lazyness, lack of responsibility and his quisling tendencies. An argument over HRA does the Tories (and I don't include Clarke in that) no harm, as I suspect even Dave knows. Any split in the coalition can only be to the Tory advantage, given the state of leadership in the Labour Party (where even most of their own supporters accept their leader is totally unelectable) and the state of the LD in the polls (where they would win almost no seats in an election tomorrow).
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