Clarke sinks his claws into May

Clarke goes back on the attack, describing May's comments as "laughable" and "child-like".

Ken Clarke has just poured petrol on the bonfire of cat-gate. In an interview with the Nottingham Post, the Justice Secretary attacked Theresa May for using "laughable child-like examples" to discredit the Human Rights Act. He told the paper:

"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 are not going to be entertained by laughable child-like examples being given".

Significantly, he also criticised May for breaching collective responsibility by calling for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped. A commission is currently investigating the case for a British Bill of Rights but Cameron is fearful of going further for fear of alienating Nick Clegg, who memorably told the Lib Dem conference that the Act is "here to stay".

Clarke said: "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."

Along with the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, Clarke, dubbed the "sixth Lib Dem cabinet minister" by Clegg, is determined to keep the Human Rights Act.

It's refreshing to see two cabinet ministers disagree so publicly on a point of principle (although Tim Montgomerie has called for Clarke to be "sacked at the earliest opportunity") but the current imbroglio will heighten the pressure on Cameron to impose his authority.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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