Ken Clarke has rubbished justice secretary Chris Grayling's suggestion a future Tory government would withdraw Britain from the European Court of Human Rights, arguing it is necessary to protect people from a "tabloid lynch mob".
The minister without portfolio, who served as justice secretary himself until last September's reshuffle, said the UK "obviously" needed to remain part of the European convention on human rights.
He said: "In today's highly tempestuous, tabloid newspaper-dominated world, with a lynch mob every week for somebody or other, you need a convention on human rights, you need to be able to apply it, particularly, unfortunately, when unpopular individuals being campaigned against in the newspapers are being pursued by officials or somebody. That's what the convention of human rights is for."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme on Monday, Clarke also said withdrawing from the convention would destroy Britain's ability to pressure other European countries, including Russia, to observe human rights rules.
His intervention came after Grayling, who is seen as far more to the right than his predecessor, said he was "absolutely certain" the Conservatives would include a pledge to pull out of the court in its next manifesto.
The move would please many backbench Tory MPs who accuse the court of intruding on the British justice system. The suggestion will also be read as a response to the Tory party's humiliation at the hands of Ukip in last week's Eastleigh by-election.