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Catgate: Teresa May’s Immigration Speech Runs Aground; Kenneth Clarke Gets Angry

Posted on the 05 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Catgate: Teresa May’s immigration speech runs aground; Kenneth Clarke gets angry

Theresa May, the Home secretary. Photocredit: ukhomeoffice http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5703221554/sizes/z/in/photostream/

There’s not much exciting happening at the Conservative Party conference (taking place in Manchester at the moment.) But one thing’s been let out of the bag, or put among the pigeons, or what you will: a new “scandal”, if you could use the term to describe such an event, which has already earned the name Catgate – or Catflap, to its friends.

So what’s happened? Well, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, made her speech about immigration policy. It was meant to show how the Human Rights Act is abused by immigrants, particularly those who use the “right to a family life.” She cited the example of a Bolivian, who “‘cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat”, she was quoted as saying in The Daily Mail. The cat in question was called Maya.

However her comments caused the ire of Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who said that Theresa May was talking rubbish, and that there was absolutely no way that any British judge has ever refused deportation because somebody had a cat. According to The New Statesman’s Conference blog, May has since said she “will look at it again,” claiming that her speech was fact-checked. Downing Street is standing by May’s version, saying that whilst the cat was not the actual main reason for the Bolivian’s remaining in the country, it was certainly a mitigating factor. Whilst sources at Number 10, says PoliticsHome, are suggesting that Clarke “ought to take Ms May for a ‘nice slap-up meal’ by way of apology”, Conservatives are worried that Clarke’s ill-timed comments will overshadow May’s real point – that Article 8 of The Human Rights Act is often used to prevent criminals from being deported. At least the hoo-hah has apparently stopped David Cameron making a rather tasteless joke.

“She wears kitten heels, but now Theresa May is caught in a cat flap,” said Jon Craig on Sky News.

Burying bad news. Bagehot on The Economist said that it’s saved the Conservatives from looking like “the nasty party.” The plan had been to base the speeches on “ridding the country of menacing foreigners.” A “rumpled” Kenneth Clarke (whom Jason Groves on The Daily Mail’s Chapman and Co blog said was becoming a bit of a problem) pointed out that the cat wasn’t the entire basis for the Bolivian’s staying in Britain. The spat has stopped the papers from indulging in “a rather ugly day of foreigner-bashing.”

Mopping up. It hasn’t saved the Tories at all, said Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. In fact, they’re doing all they can to “retoxify” their “brand.” The soft ground Cameron’s been inhabiting is giving way to harder, which might not help them in the elections to come. They’ve been presenting themselves for so long as “mop-wielding janitors” cleaning up after Labour’s mess, that when it comes down to it, voters might wave them on their way and let Labour come in to renew society. They’re losing ground with women, ethnic minorities and in inner cities: for them to succeed, they must wave goodbye to the economic crisis, and Cameron must work his magic.

Check your facts mate. Polly Curtis in The Guardian carefully checked May’s claims. She said that the original dispute was about whether someone who’s been in a relationship for two years can remain. The cat was only evidence, not the raison d’être. The Bolivian wasn’t even a criminal.

“As part of the application and as part of the appeal, the couple gave detailed statements of the life they had built together in the UK to show the genuine nature and duration of their relationship. One detail provided, among many, was that they had owned a cat together for some time”,  said solicitor Barry O’Leary, quoted in The Guardian.

Purrfectly obnoxious. Political blogger Guido Fawkes slightly overdid it on the cat puns, saying it was the “purr-fect” story, with the “tabby-loids” all over this “fur-fetched” story. Whilst Cameron will be “fur-ious”, May will be able to “claw back her reputation.” He finished, thank goodness, with “we will now take a paws from the cat puns.”


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