Cameron 'cat spat' slap to Ken Clarke

David Cameron delivered a slap to Ken Clarke over his human rights law "cat spat" with Theresa May in a pun-filled section of his speech to the Conservative Party conference.

The Justice Secretary sparked a furore yesterday when he publicly questioned the Home Secretary's claim that an illegal immigrant escaped being deported because he had a pet cat.

Number 10 quickly made clear that the Prime Minister backed Mrs May and Mr Cameron underlined his position with a jibe at Mr Clarke.

Addressing party members in Manchester, he told them that he and fellow ministers had been recording audio books for the blind as part of a social project being run at the conference.

"There was one book that I chose personally. I said 'Ken, this one's called Crime And Punishment and I want you to read it, twice'," he quipped.

With Mr Clarke not immediately joining the laughter in the hall, the premier went on: "After yesterday we should probably have a group reading of Mog The Cat.

"Although if you, like me, read that book to your children at bedtime, you will remember that Mog The Cat helps the police to catch the burglar, not keep him in the country."

Mr Cameron also used the book titles to stir speculation over a potential battle to succeed him as leader between Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"George knew exactly what he wanted - he went straight for The Man Who Would Be King. I'm afraid Boris missed out. Instead he chose The Joy of ... Cycling," he said.

Mr Clarke brushed off the jibe, saying: "He made a couple of reasonable jokes about me.

"I would be rather annoyed if he had forgotten me, but then I'm not easy to forget in Government."

Mr Clarke praised Mr Cameron's address for striking an optimistic tone despite the struggling economy.

The Justice Secretary added: "It was an extremely good speech on the theme of leadership."