Kitten heels May gets in a cat flap

Left Foot Forward’s Alex Hern reports on home secretary Theresa May’s embarrassing attempt at government by anecdote.

Home secretary Theresa May, previously best known for wearing kitten heels and describing the Tories as “the nasty party”, has made what is likely to be the best blunder of the conference season.

Speaking to the Tory conference on so-called abuses of the Human Rights Act, she said:

“We all know the stories about the Human Rights Act. The violent drug dealer who cannot be sent home because his daughter – for whom he pays no maintenance – lives here. The robber who cannot be removed because he has a girlfriend. The illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat.”

Unfortunately for her, as was confirmed by a spokesperson for the Judicial Office shortly after, she was indeed making it up:

“This was a case in which the Home Office conceded that they had mistakenly failed to apply their own policy – applying at that time to that appellant – for dealing with unmarried partners of people settled in the UK. That was the basis for the decision to uphold the original tribunal decision – the cat had nothing to do with the decision.”

Even justice secretary Ken Clarke was driven to intervene:

“I’ve never had a conversation on the subject with Theresa so I’d have to find out about these strange cases she is throwing out.

“They are British cases and British judges she is complaining about. I cannot believe anybody has ever had deportation refused on the basis of owning a cat. I’ll have a small bet with her that nobody has ever been refused deportation on the grounds of the ownership as a cat.”

The error moves from humorous to damaging when you learn the speech had been approved by the “quad”, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander. As well as showing the shocking incompetency of their fact-checking – the original story was debunked in November 2009 – it demonstrates how far the Conservatives will go to discredit the HRA.

Although it was the most obviously incorrect government statement on the act, merely being untrue isn’t enough to make it stand out, as Shami Chakrabarti points out:

“[Theresa May] well knows that the human rights act leaves the last word on immigration control to parliament. Perhaps tomorrow the prime minister will explain how he is going to scrap the HRA without ceding more decisions to European judges in Strasbourg. Why put your party at odds with 93 per cent of people who value human rights protection in this country?”

The BBC also quotes Amnesty International condemning the home secretary:

Amnesty International UK is not happy with home secretary Theresa May, accusing her of “tangling herself up in contradictions in her apparent attempt to play to the crowd”.

Tara Lyle, policy adviser, said: “The human rights act is often made into a pantomime villain. In fact, it is a list of protections that apply to every person in our society. That someone in Theresa May’s position can be so misinformed as to parade out a story about someone being allowed to stay in Britain because of a cat, is nothing short of alarming.”

May, who coined the term “nasty party”, is probably wishing she was seen as nasty right now, rather than merely incompetent.

Her party, however, is doing a great job at justifying the term – Political Scrapbook has dug up this leaflet, proudly displayed for sale in Manchester:

As much as the term may now have been devalued, we are not making this up.

See also:

Clegg’s defence of Human Rights Act as welcome as it is timelyDr Prateek Buch, August 26th 2011

Theresa May cannot ignore legitimate questions over police tacticsKaty Clark, May 24th 2011

May’s talk of reform “a euphemism for cuts”Shamik Das, March 2nd 2011

Police Fed chief: May’s policies have police “careering towards” possible “meltdown”Dominic Browne, May 18th 2011

May’s police cuts: A gamble becomes a shambleDominic Browne, June 20th 2011

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20 Responses to “Kitten heels May gets in a cat flap”

  1. Political Planet

    Kitten heels May gets in a cat flap: Left Foot Forward’s Alex Hern reports on home secretary Theresa May’s embar…

  2. Isobel waby

    Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap: reports @AlexHern #catgate #ToryCon #May #CPC11

  3. Ashley Harnett

    Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap | Left Foot Forward

  4. Kevin Arscott

    Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap: reports @AlexHern #catgate #ToryCon #May #CPC11

  5. Mark

    Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap: reports @AlexHern #catgate #ToryCon #May #CPC11

  6. Ewan Tant

    Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap: reports @AlexHern #catgate #ToryCon #May #CPC11

  7. Lianne

    RT @leftfootfwd Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap: < Why is her footwear relevant to her idiocy? #sexismalert

  8. Mark Williams

    RT“@leftfootfwd: Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap: reports > do read!

  9. Tom Chance

    RT @leftfootfwd Kitten heels May gets herself in a cat flap: < Why is her footwear relevant to her idiocy? #sexismalert

  10. Alan Cowan

    Kitten heels May gets in a cat flap-love the image. Tory ferral kitten

  11. Poll worry for Cameron on eve of conference speech | Left Foot Forward

    […] against the Human Rights Act, backing Theresa May over Ken Clarke following yesterday’s “cat gate” […]

  12. cim

    But you’re missing the most important question – what the public really wants to know is what sort of shoes Cameron and Osborne were wearing. Without this vital information, how can we properly judge their fitness as Ministers?

  13. The anti-human rights obsession of Theresa and the Tories | Left Foot Forward

    […] May’s moggy was meant to exemplify what’s bad but forced her onto what’s good about our rights. Although she mentioned repeal in her speech, by mid-afternoon she was conceding that there is a balance in Article 8. She only ever argued for change to immigration rules to emphasise that balance. […]

  14. Rob the crip

    yes 2008/9 althought it was not just the cat it was his girl friend as well, but the cat was named in court papers.

  15. Look Left – Miliband shuffles the shadows as Clarke/May feud drags on | Left Foot Forward

    […] Human Rights Act, gets bumped off, while the shallow, shabby, right wing tabloid myth regurgitating clown […]

  16. tom

    Is this some kind of joke? We are supposed to believe that “QUAD” okay’d the speech because some person on twitter said so? Why on earth would have Danny Alexander have read the speech!?

    I know this article isn’t necessarily representative of Left Foot Forward, but I personally will no longer be looking at this website. The whole spreading of gossip/lies is all getting a bit much. Bye

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    […] trouble. Matthews is the editorial director of Bretwalda Books, a name which hit the public sphere just last week when one of their recent publications was spotted at the Tory […]

  18. Look Left – Cameron bids Fox ‘thank you and goodbye’ | Left Foot Forward

    […] Matthews, then, exposed this week as the publisher of the ‘golliwog book’ that was on sale at the Tory party conference last week. Read more about this bizarre, […]

  19. The government must stop spreading false perceptions about immigration | Left Foot Forward

    […] in the British citizenship test; and not to mention home secretary Theresa May’s infamous cat anecdote – they are hitting the wrong notes when it comes to tuning in to public […]

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