July 13, 2024

Britain’s true ruler? Larry the Downing Street cat

Britain’s true ruler? Larry the Downing Street cat


LONDON, June 27 — There has been one figure of stability in the last 14 years of political turmoil in the UK — Larry the Downing Street cat.

Now, with a general election fast approaching on July 4, the ageing tabby could be in line for his sixth prime minister.

He has already had five Conservative prime ministers serve under him but if polls are correct, he will soon get his first from the Labour party.

Incumbent Rishi Sunak’s departure would see him take his fox-red labrador retriever Nova too. Not that Larry would mind.

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According to Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, the pair have had some “heated exchanges”. But Larry has always prevailed.

Labour leader Keir Starmer recently told the BBC that his family has a cat, Jojo, that his children spoil more than him.

They also have a hamster, Bear, he told the Metro newspaper. But it remains to be seen if either would move with him if he wins.

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Larry has been fiercely protective of his territory, frequently fighting to be top cat with his counterpart at the foreign ministry, Palmerston.

His rival eventually retired to the countryside.

Urban foxes and unsuspecting pigeons have also been chased away, although one feathered interloper narrowly avoided his clutches, as the media looked on.

Longevity

Larry made his first appearance in Downing Street on February 15, 2011 after being adopted from the Battersea shelter in south London.

He was recruited under then prime minister David Cameron to get rid of mice and even given an official title: “Chief Mouser”.

But his performance in that department left much to be desired, despite a few early successes.

Cameron himself tried to quash rumours that he and Larry did not get along, while reporters on the politics beat have said he is friendly with journalists.

“He’s interested,” the appropriately named BBC political correspondent Helen Catt said in a recent item on Larry.

“He tends to come up and have a look when you’re there with the camera crew, he likes to see what the press are up to.”

But that has its downsides, she added.

“When you’re in Downing Street and you’re doing lives, you’re always very aware that if he pops out behind you, a lot of people really aren’t going to be listening to what you’re saying anymore,” she said.

For the general election, Larry has set out his campaign manifesto on his official @Number10cat social media account.

“I don’t get to vote in the general election but I do have to live with whoever you elect. No pressure,” one post read after Sunak announced the election on May 22.

“Whatever the result of the election, I’ll be here to keep an eye on things,” read another.

Interviewed by AFP on the 10th anniversary of his arrival in power, Larry, via the human running his social media account, revealed the secret to his longevity.

“The key thing to remember is that I live here permanently, the politicians just lodge with me for a bit until they’re fired,” he said.

“They all work out sooner or later that it’s me that runs the place.” — AFP



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