The justice secretary is at it again. As if he hadn’t done enough to upset his cabinet colleagues by calling into question the cat anecdote Theresa May used to attack the Human Rights Act, he’snow condemned her even more explicitly in an interview with the Nottingham Evening Post.
According to PA, Clarke told the paper:
It’s not only the judges that all get furious when the home secretary makes a parody of a court judgment, our commission who are helping us form our view on this are not going to be entertained by laughable child-like examples being given.
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.
The problem for Clarke is that Number 10 is on May’s side. After he offered a “small bet” with May that her cat story wasn’t true, a Downing Street source joked to me: “He’s lost that one. I’m sure he’ll be handing over the money.”
Clarke clearly feels he hasn’t lost. But instead of keeping quiet and getting on with trying to work out what the official government position on the Human Rights Act should be, he is upping the ante.
Explicit attacks from one cabinet minister on another usually means stiff punishment from Number 10, and sure enough, Sky News is currently reporting that Downing St will be asking him for an explanation. Some are even calling for his head.
Clarke is well liked among the Lib Dems – Nick Clegg even joked at his party conference that Clarke was the sixth Lib Dem cabinet member. That may be enough to save him, but he will surely have to make a pretty grovelling apology if he wants to keep his job without this turning into a more major government split.
UPDATE: Here’s the apology. Not sure how grovelling it is though:
This is old news from an interview I gave during the Conservative party conference. I consider this issue closed. The prime minister has made the position clear, and I fully support it. There is a problem with deporting foreign prisoners, which I have always agreed with Theresa needs to be addressed.
The government’s commission on a bill of rights is under way. I do rather regret the colourful language I used at one point in my interview.