Saturday, 15 October 2011

The tale of the Fox and the Cat

We seem to be living a bit of a fairy tale in England at the moment. The last week has all been about the Fox and the Cat.

Now you may need to adjust the image you have just brought to mind. Are you thinking of something straight out of Disney or Pixar? Perhaps a charming red ruffian with a bushy tail and a pointy snout alongside an equally charming but cunning grey-backed, white-bellied, wide-whiskered slick feline, both equipped with winsome smiles, possibly thigh boots, floppy hats and twirled rapiers?

If so, think again.

The Fox in this story is Dr Liam of that ilk. He set out on his career modestly enough as a mere GP (actually, since I have friends who are or were GPs, perhaps I should say his career started out in a blaze of distinction in the prestigious profession of GP). From there he rose through merit to the dizzying position of former (as of yesterday) Minister of Defence.

Why did he provoke so much debate? For bombing Libya? For not bombing Syria? No, it’s human interest that has grabbed our attention. And he’s been paying a lot too much interest to one human in particular, a certain Adam Werritty, a former flatmate, the best man at his wedding, who got into the habit of treating the Defence Ministry and the House of Commons as merely extensions to his own office, into which he could wander more or less at will. He even had visiting cards run up with the House of Commons logo on them and describing him as an adviser to the Minister.

Now I love references to men as ‘former flatmates’.  Just what are we being told here? Is it really a key aspect of their lives that they once shared accommodation? If it is that crucial, it feels rather like those so-called news articles we get from time to time to tell us that two politicians shared a hotel room, which somehow don’t leave me with the impression that I’m being asked to admire their thriftiness and the consequent savings for the taxpayer.

If Fox and Werritty had anything to hide along these lines, and I really can’t be bothered to try to find out, then all I can say is that having the latter acting as best man at the former’s wedding strikes me as going to extraordinary lengths to camouflage it.

The only interesting aspect of the whole story is Werritty’s completely unmerited access to a Cabinet minister, his inclusion in missions to foreign governments, and his apparent inability to distinguish between government business and the needs of an ideological organisation he set up with his flatmate.  This smacks of just the kind of sleaze that submerged the previous Conservative government, John Major’s, in its last years. Since I’ve been praying for the fin of our current régime from the day it was first formed, anything that has a fin de régime feel to it is more than welcome to me.

The political versions weren't quite that endearing

What about the cat?

He was produced, metaphorically, for our delectation by another Cabinet Minister, Teresa May, the Home Secretary. At the Conservative Party Conference, she launched an attack on the Human Rights Act. Amazing, isn’t it? You’d think everyone was in favour of human rights, but the Conservatives never cease to astonish. You can’t even count on their being keen on motherhood (particularly among the unmarried) and I suspect they don’t like apple pie either. Perhaps they’re afraid the undeserving poor might develop a taste for it.

As part of her denunciation of the pernicious workings of the act, May pointed to the case of an illegal immigrant who a court ruled could not be deported – because he had a cat. ‘And I’m not making this up,’ she assured her adoring audience.

Turns out she was, actually. The application to deport this man was indeed rejected, but on the grounds that he’d established a long-term partnership in this country (partnership, yes, yes, it was another case of flat-matery). The judge in reaching his decision relied on the acceptance of the defendant by the partner’s friends and relatives, with all the usual signs of family life such as visits, shared meals and so on. Oh, and by the way, the defendant and the partner had bought a cat together, a small piece of additional evidence that they were in their relationship for the (relatively) long haul.

Ken Clarke, the Justice Minister, is my favourite Conservative, as Ive remarked before. He immediately hit back at May. ‘Laughable and childish’ he called his Cabinet colleague’s comments (soon to be ex-colleague, one suspects, though not because May will go).

The ever admirable David Cameron intervened and naturally came down on the side of right and justice, so Clarke had to apologise. 

‘I do rather regret the colourful language I used,’ he announced, which is pure, vintage Clarke – it sounds like an apology but retracts absolutely nothing.

Oh, well. It’s been a fun week. Nice to have politics focused on cats and foxes instead of the usual rats and snakes. And as usual when I hear about Clarke up to something, I’m left wondering yet again just how much longer he’ll survive among this particularly loathsome variety of serpent.

And, more to the point, why on Earth he wandered into the snake pit in the first place.


Anonymous said...

You seem to be implying something when you refer to the pair as flatmates. The man can be nothing of the sort; remember he resigned as a member of the University of Glasgow’s student council in protest at a gay and lesbian society being admitted to the Glasgow University Union (GUU). And nobody has accused him of hypocrisy!


David Beeson said...

Ah, if only the Gay and Lesbian Society had had the delicacy to call itself the 'Flatmatery Society', he could have stayed in post and had an enviable political career.