The conventional political analysis of the “cat flap” between Home Secretary Theresa May and the Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke is that by criticising a cabinet colleague in public Ken used up another of his nine lives and may be heading for the chop in next spring’s reshuffle. The political world likes to have it both ways: to encourage speaking openly but when anybody actually does, they get hammered for ill discipline.
Siding with Theresa and defending her conference speech flourish (I am not making this up), David Cameron rebuked Ken at least twice and has since promised to tighten up immigration rules.
Looked at differently however Ken was only doing his job as the defender of the judiciary in government, as he explained to his local paper the Nottingham Post.
“It’s not only the judges that all get furious when the Home Secretary
makes a parody of a court judgement, our commission who are helping us form our view on this (a British Bill of Human Rights) are not going to be entertained by laughable child-like examples being given,” said Mr Clarke.
“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.”
As later reports made clear, the reference to Maya the cat was lighthearted (“the cat need no longer fear having to adapt to Bolivian mice” – always dangerous when judges try to get funny) and was part of a much fuller description of the stability of the immigrant appellant’s life in this country.
As for the prime minister, between pushing the popular cause of tighter immigration controls and defending (or at least not distorting) a judicial ruling, is there any contest? If Ken is sacked, what does it say about the coalition’s respect for judicial independence?