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Larry vs. Palmerston: The cat fight that’s heating up British politics

WATCH: It's been an ugly few weeks in British politics. While the drama of the Brexit vote may be over, there's a whole new battle brewing at 10 Downing Street. As Jeff Semple reports, the fur is really flying.

Weeks of political turmoil followed Britain’s historic referendum on leaving the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned. Theresa May replaced him.

But a new power battle emerged after the dust from the Brexit vote settled, with one member of Cameron’s squad still clawing to power.

READ MORE: David Cameron says being PM ‘the greatest honour of my life’ in final Downing Street speech

Larry the cat was Cameron’s “chief mouser“. The black and white tabby first moved into 10 Downing Street in 2011. He was rescued from a London animal shelter and is believed to be around 10 years old. He was originally brought to Britain’s highest office to help deal with a rat problem. But Larry has since become a staple of British politics — often seen perched on the front step, apparently guarding Number 10 from political predators.

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Larry the Downing Street cat walks past the front door of Number 10, in central London on July 13.
Larry the Downing Street cat walks past the front door of Number 10, in central London on July 13. Peter Nicholls/Reuters

But after resigning as prime minister and moving out of the official residence, Cameron and his family left Larry behind.

In his final prime minister’s address on July 13, David Cameron revealed Larry had avoided eviction, denying past reports that the two never got along.

“The rumour that somehow I don’t love Larry? I do! And I have a photographic evidence to prove it,” Cameron told MPs, holding up a photograph of the cat curled-up on his lap. “Sadly I can’t take Larry with me. He belongs to the house and staff love him very much; As do I.”

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But when Britain’s newly-appointed Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, moved into his office across the street, he brought along a new Foreign Office feline, named Palmerston.

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While Johnson may have long surrendered his fight for the prime minister’s office, it seems Palmerston has greater ambitions.

READ MORE: Who is Boris Johnson? A look at the UK foreign secretary’s top gaffes

The two-year-old, clad in black and white, has proved a cunning cat-burglar — sneaking past security and into the prime minister’s office this week, before being unceremoniously evicted by Scotland Yard.

And Larry, it seems, did not appreciate the intrusion. The two have already been spotted several times engaging in tense political stand-offs.

Like two boxers before a fight, they stand face-to-face, whisker-to-whisker, hissing and meowing ferociously at each other.

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At one point last week, things got ugly. The claws came out and paws were exchanged. Larry limped away from the fight and had to be treated by a veterinarian.

Their turf war has sparked a flurry of cheeky headlines in the British tabloids and the public has been tweeting support for their preferred cat with the hashtag #teamlarry or #teampalmerston.

Larry’s war wound even prompted a question in British Parliament from MP Ann Clywd: “The cat at Number 10 looked in a very sorry situation — limping with one paw in the air,” Clywd told MPs.

“Is it because he misses the old prime minister? And does the new prime minister care for the welfare of cats as much as the old Prime Minister did?”

READ MORE: Britain’s ‘Chief Mouser,’ Larry the Cat, records first kill at Downing Street

Larry has since tweeted (to his 86,000+ twitter followers) to say he’s OK adding: “you should see the state of the other guy.”

As though this political drama wasn’t tense enough already, a new character has just been added to the mix.

Gladstone, the British Treasury’s new cat, arrived in Whitehall Friday, sparking speculation of a three-way power struggle.

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Britain may have a new prime minister, but the cat fight for Downing street seems far from over.