You have to admire a certain kind of British wit, that steers a scandal involving a feline, from gaining the suffix “-gate”, becoming instead “catflap”. The cat in question is Maya, the pet of a Bolivian illegal immigrant, who appealed against being deported on human rights grounds — chiefly that he was in a stable relationship with a UK citizen, and therefore claimed the “right to family life” provisions of the Human Rights Act. In delivering the judgement, the judge in question cited the purchase of Maya the cat as evidence of a stable relationship.

This was kicked into touch by home secretary Theresa May, at the Tory Conference, in a speech denouncing the human rights act noting that “one man could not be deported because — and I am not making this up — because he had a pet cat”. With Maya thus launched to stardom, Kenneth Clarke, the liberal but increasingly erratic Thatcher-era minister, threw his two cents in, saying that he politely thought that this was all bollocks; Theresa May bet him 5 it wasn’t; and the press honed in on the details, with the cat nailed and bleeding at all points so to speak.

This culminated in a Newsnight interview with immigration minister David Green who valiantly tried to defend Teresa May’s line, but had to put up with extended questions as to whether he had spoken to the cat, did the cat have its own lawyer. Ha ha ha. In other news, the conference agreed that the country had a “feral underclass” which had to be diminished. Meanwhile, Maya the cat premieres next week on Channel Four, with a CD cross-promotion on the X Factor, and a celebrity Big Brother stint imminent.

Peter Fray

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