James Forsyth

The Cabinet cat-flap continues

The Cabinet cat-flap continues
Text settings
Comments

The Ken Clarke and Theresa May cat-flap has sparked up again this morning, with the Justice Secretary accusing the Home Secretary of using "laughable child-like examples" to attack the Human Right Act.

In some ways, it's hard to take a political row about a cat particularly seriously. But this back and forth between May and Clarke is actually exposing something very important: the Liberal Democrats are not the only brake on Tory radicalism.

At the moment, lots of Tory ministers – up to and including the Prime Minister – like to imply that they'd be doing far more on Europe, immigration and the Human Rights Act if it wasn't for the Lib Dems. But this row is showing that even if the Tories were governing on their own, the Cabinet would be divided about what to do on these issues.

The Tory party has definitely moved significantly to the right – partly thanks to the realities of government – and these splits are nothing compared to those between wets and dries in the 1980s or Euro-philes and Euro-sceptics in the 1990s. But there will still be quite a battle over what to put in the Tory manifesto come 2015.

It is, for instance, hard to imagine Clarke and the Attorney General Dominic Grieve signing up to a Tory commitment to leave the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg Court, which is what most of the party wants.