Coffee House

Taking the ‘cat-flap’ seriously

4 October 2011

6:34 PM

4 October 2011

6:34 PM









Today’s ‘cat-flap’ between Ken Clarke and Theresa May exposes one of the largest divides in the Conservative party today. May, along with most Tory MPs, wants to get rid of the human rights act, while Clarke and the attorney general Dominic Grieve want to keep it.

May, to the surprise of her colleagues, used a pre-conference interview with the Sunday Telegraph to make clear her desire to get rid of the act. After this, there was always going to be a reaction from Clarke & Co.

One ally of the Justice Secretary tells me that his comments today were spurred, in part, by an irritation that he hadn’t seen the text of the Home Secretary’s speech before she delivered it. It was also the kind of populism that drives Ken, with his haughty disdain for what he calls the ‘right-wing press’, mad.

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Show comments
  • Brian W

    Whatever you think about the HRA, Theresa May was simply factually wrong about the legal decision being based on the cat.

    She could have made good arguments for her point of view without resorting to making things up, but apparently thought her speech would have more impact if she asserted the legal decision was made on the basis of the cat.

    Even though the cat was mentioned by the judge, it is perfectly clear that the decision was not made because of the cat.

    Theresa May should apologize.

  • Dennis Churchill

    When the treaty was drawn up the “Right” to a family life was more likely to have been based on the recent (and current in the USSR) government practice of removing the family of dissidents for adoption or institutionalisation rather than allowing a foreign criminal residency rights. In the latter case the “right” would probably be restricted if the family was refused the “Right” to leave the UK.
    Christopher Booker often writes about how the State frequently ignores the rights of Britons to have a family by seizing their children and putting them up for adoption against the parents’ wishes. I would have thought this was a much clearer breach of this “Right”. Strange how our Family courts are never challenged under the HRA.
    The use of this clause is just another way of ensuring we have effectively open borders and anyone who manages to step onto British soil has the same rights as a native born Briton.

  • Occasional Ostrich

    Baron 8:43am

    Sounds like a good reason for leaving it to events.

  • Baron

    Still one more:

    Leo McKinstry has it spot on, if the politicians fail to mend things, at some point events will do it.

  • Baron

    and another thing:

    the core of it was cobbled up together after WW2, too soon after the near unimaginable atrocities committed by man against man, it was the counterweight to the Treblinkas, the evil of ubermensch and stuff, it wasn’t just the product of rational, cool, sagacious thinking, hence it took long for it to be slotted into the law of the land here, not much longer though than it took the country to tilt from cool, rational thinking to emotions, feelings, passions when dealing with issues.

  • paulo

    ‘The cat as a pet was only adduced as supporting evidence for a “family life”, not as the family life itself.’

    If the existence of a family life was plain to see and obvious on its face, the judge would not have had to bring the pet, bloody cat in to it in the first place.

    He was obviously a lefty ‘do-gooder’, scratching and scraping around the empty barrel of scant real evidence of a family life here, trying to find or concoct ‘evidence’ that he wasn’t having the piss taken out of him.

  • Echo34

    May i suggest the HRA 2012.

    The Human Responsibilities Act.

  • Occasional Ostrich

    LibertarianLou 9:35pm

    By making the connection, YOU just did.

  • Occasional Ostrich

    By making the connection, YOU just did.

  • Occasional Ostrich

    Nick 7:09pm

    So you bl**dy should. The cat as a pet was only adduced as supporting evidence for a “family life”, not as the family life itself. It’s unfortunate that May should have picked this particular instance, given the plethora of similar cases that has been trailed through the front page headlines over the past year.

  • Dennis Churchill

    “Populism”: an interesting word particularly when used as a term of abuse in what is supposed to be a democracy.
    Forcing laws and policies that are unpopular on a population would normally be referred to as…
    I believe a populist is one who believes in the right and ability of the common people to play a major part in governing themselves (Chambers)
    No surprise that Clarke and Co.think that is much better done by them and their fellow New Aristocrats in Brussels.

  • Extract Foot

    @ Nick

    Why on earth doesn’t The Spectator demand a higher standard of professionalism in the commenters on this site. This has just been hugely embarrassing.


  • Greenslime

    Doesn’t matter how much you want to get rid of this stupid stupid law, it is NEVER right to use lies to garner support.

    This woman is either stupid or stupidly arrogant or both. She is now a proven liar too.

  • Baron

    Baron dislikes the human pap legislation not only because criminals, lawyers benefit from it way above what’s fair, equitable, virtuous, resonates with common sense, or because judges can and do get close to challenging the supremacy of the House, he dislikes it also because it codifies hypocrisy, no right ever has been, can ever be absolute.

  • LibertarianLou

    Who will make a joke about ktitten heels first?

  • daniel maris

    No one I know seriously believes getting rid of the Human Rights Act would now stop our judges from acting as the Fourth Estate.

  • Leo McKinstry

    Theresa May should come out on the offensive over so-called “Catgate”. There was absolutely nothing wrong with what she said. The cat was cited by the Bolivian’s lawyer as evidence of the strength of his relationship with his girlfriend, and thereby grounds to thwart his deportation. Morever, the pet was twice referred to by judges, so it is not an irrelevance. What is happening here is a classic diversionary tactic by the left, the human rights industry and parts of the media. They are making a great fuss over this issue in order to distract attention from the outrage of the Human Rights Act, which has made a complete mockery of all concepts of morality and justice. Every year, it is estimated that 3200 foreign criminals, bogus asylum seekers and benefit tourists evade deportation because of the HRA. The decade-long fiasco over Dale Farm is another example of the Act’s baleful influence. Even Jack Straw, who piloted the 1998 Act through Parliament admitted recently that it has become “in a sense a villain’s charter.” It is also ridiculous to hear human rights lawyers and self-styled experts cited today as if they are impartial sources. In truth they are desperate to protect their lucrative industry. Theresa May should ignore the hysterical propaganda from this self-serving brigade and get the Act changed.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Who does the HRA benefit most? Lawyers and their wallets. What are Clarke and Grieve?

  • Frank P

    Fuck-me-shoes and Hush-Puppies in combat under the benches. That should make the fur fly.

  • and I’ll go to bed at noon

    Once upon a time, conservatives were deeply wary of populism and would seek to make the case for harsher justice without relying on the anger of the mob.

  • Nick

    I apologise. It appears the judge in this case did quote possession of a cat as evidence of a family life in the UK.

  • Justicia

    Part of the frustration coming from Clarke and Grieve is the fact that repealing the HRA is stupid and completely unprincipled.

    If you don’t like the ECHR, the treaty that states the Human Rights, fine. Leave the treaty or try to amend it. This is a perfectly legitimate argument to make, and May refuses to try it.

    Repealing the HRA act is repealing efficiency. With or without it, the same substantial rights get enforced. With or without it, you can take your case to strasbourg.

    The only difference it makes is cost. It costs a fortune to appeal to Strasbourg, where foreign judges decide on the law, and it takes several years. Several years of limbo.

    The HRA allows british judges to apply the law. Nothing more or less. The idea that repealing it will change any of May’s grievances in the slightest in nonsense, and it is for that stupidity that she is getting criticised by Tories who actually have a knowledge and understanding of the law.

    I suggest this to people every time this argument gets brought up. It is the single most effective argument for the HRA I’ve ever read, and it’s almost 20 years old. The late Lord Bingham:

  • Nick

    May obviously believed that criminals were allowed to stay in the UK because they had a cat to look after.

    The fact that this has been shown to be completely wrong surely destroys any credibility that she has in arguing the HRA goes against all common sense and natural justice.

    Why on earth doesn’t Cameron demand a higher standard of professionalism in the senior ministers of his party. This has just been hugely embarrassing.

    It plays entirely to the popular notion that Tory MPs get their information and base their policies on stuff some chancer told them down the pub.

    Straight bananas, banning of Xmas etc have all been shown to be nonsense. Yet they are constantly repeated.

  • tom jones

    Unlike many, I still have a lot of time for Ken Clarke and I think he’s doing some good things about rehabilitation, but it’s not just the right wing press who wants action on the human rights act getting abused – it’s most of british people as well. Populism isn’t a dirty word.