Maya the mystery cat

This has to be one hell of a lucky government! In the middle of a Conservative Party conference — when the headlines should have been about the weak economic recovery — the British media is obsessed with the Michael Jackson and Amanda Knox trials and, most importantly, a cat fight! And the unseemly squabble is between two very distinguished Cabinet ministers: home secretary Theresa May and justice secretary Kenneth Clarke, over a moggy called Maya! (And no, it is not our very own Mayawati).

The whole issue has been discussed fur-iously for the past week and finally the Prime Minister had to intervene to douse the fire that had flared up between the two ministers over this invisible feline, who by the way, did not even attend the proceedings of the party conference. The two ministers were called to Downing Street to kiss and make up. This reminded me of the tussle, in India, between home minister P. Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, and how Sonia Gandhi had to finally make them bury the hatchet. Obviously when two powerful egos clash the claws will come out!
Or, perhaps we live in a parallel universe where media mayhem can create issues out of thin air — as this time, out here, even out of a cat?
Maya’s owner is a Bolivian who cannot be identified, due to legal reasons, but he is an illegal immigrant, who allegedly committed a crime. Yet he was allowed to stay on in the United Kingdom and this was what an outraged Ms May spoke about in her conference speech.
According to her, the Bolivian managed to evade deportation by shielding behind the Human Rights Act. The judge hearing the case said he should be allowed to stay since he owned a pet cat! Ms May’s angst was supported by the Daily Mail who also said the judge ruled that separation from his feline pet would lead to “serious emotional consequences”. But this is not strictly correct, pointed out the affronted justice secretary Mr Clarke, defending the court’s ruling. He may have tried to rubbish Ms May’s argument — but it wasn’t a popular move since an anti-immigration stance is what appeals to the right wingers, and Ms May was talking to the core vote.
Thus fur has been flying in the Tory Party. Obviously, the home secretary would like — as would many in the Conservative Party — to change the Human Rights Act and bring in a British Bill of Rights, which would not permit illegal immigrants who are also criminals to reside in the country on so-called “flimsy” grounds. This is a battle that the liberals in the country abhor — but it is a Right-wing vote catcher, even though it actually affects a tiny number of people (and cats).
But for the fortunate Prime Minister David Cameron and his picture purr-fect wife, Sarah Cameron, the cat fight meant there was no serious discussion on what he said. He could romp through the final day of the Tory Party conference and not be torn apart over the rising inflation, declining sales and a stalled economy. As well as a far-too-long speech.
Which proves that for a small island, immigration and the Human Rights Act will always be a hot subject of debate.
For the record, however, I do want to point out that Mr Cameron did speak on slightly more off-beat, but very important issues like supporting gay marriage and the adoption of black children. Like Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, perhaps, he, too, was doing what the Right-wing parties ought to do more often if they want to win votes: reach out to those communities and support those issues which are usually off their agenda so that they can seem to be kinder and gentler souls. One good thing about Mr Cameron is that he is a great optimist.
Yet, not everything is looking rosy, despite Mr Cameron’s best attempts to make it appear so, as the news about budget reduction rolls on.
The recent decision to cut the budget of the BBC, which is said to have over 17,000 employees, is yet another blow. The corporation is now going to lose more than 2,000 jobs and will rely more on “repeats” than original programming in some of its slots. This is bound to have a backlash and already strikes are predicted — as the Beeb, which has provided the template for so many TV corporations all over the world begins to wind down. It will even be forced to sell off some of its properties, including the famous building in White City, which might, ironically, be bought over by a football club.
So perhaps a few more distractions like Maya the mythical cat may not be a bad idea, while we wait for more gloomy news.

The author can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

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