Rishi Sunak may be the newest Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but Larry has already been guiding the British people for over 10 years. (Photos via Wikimedia under the Creative Commons License; Canva image created by Daniel Zacher)
Rishi Sunak may be the newest Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, but Larry has already been guiding the British people for over 10 years.

Photos via Wikimedia under the Creative Commons License; Canva image created by Daniel Zacher

Larry the cat: the past, present, and future of British politics

December 2, 2022

In a period of great instability in United Kingdom politics, one figure has remained a beacon of hope for the British people – Larry. 

Larry (full name Lawrence), a British politician of only fifteen years of age, is the incumbent Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office at No. 10 Downing Street in the United Kingdom. 

On February 15, 2011, Larry assumed his position as the first ever “official” Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. Unlike most politicians, Larry won his election by a landslide. In fact, no one even ran against him. 

That’s because Larry is actually a cat. 

Larry’s duties as the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office include hunting mice and napping. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons License)

Growing up on the cruel London streets as a stray, Larry became a hardened, adept predator after hunting mice and asserting his dominance over his territory. After being recruited to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Larry’s prior experiences led him to being one of the top cat candidates when the No. 10 staff came to Battersea in search of a solution for an apparent Downing Street rat problem.

As stated by the Downing Street staff in a BBC article, Larry had a “high chase-drive and hunting instinct.” 

Despite a warm welcome to Downing Street, Larry was not exempt from public scrutiny. Within two weeks of assuming office, Larry was described as having a “distinct lack of killer instinct,” according to an article from The Telegraph. On multiple occasions, Larry had been caught sleeping instead of roaming No. 10 in search of another rodent. Downing Street’s growing rat problem coupled with the Chief Mouser’s inaction led to the public calling for Larry to be removed from office. After an uneventful two months in office, Larry recorded his first mouse fatality, appearing in a Downing Street window with his victim clenched in his jaws. 

Nevertheless, the media continued to condemn Larry. 

Lindsey Quilan, head of the catteries at Battersea, said, “What we got wrong is that he [Larry] actually turned out to be a rubbish mouser,” in a CBC article

By June of 2011, Larry had already caught three mice, David Cameron reported in a BBC article

In more recent times, Larry has taken his animal-hunting abilities to the next level. In 2021, a video showed Larry catching a pigeon outside of No. 10. Larry quickly charged the pigeon, grabbing it with his claws and slamming it against a curb. However, the pigeon managed to escape Larry’s grasp and flew away. 

Just last month, Larry was filmed chasing a fox away from Downing Street in a now viral video. The fox slowly wandered away as Larry approached it, but Larry was quick to strike, chasing it into some bushes before the two eventually made their way onto the street. The fox attempted to go back onto the sidewalk, but Larry moved forward again, and the fox ran off. 

However, Larry’s most high-profile feud with another animal was with Palmerston, the former Chief Mouser of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office at Whitehall. Whitehall is also the area that Downing Street is located in, meaning that Larry and Palmerston were just a walk away from each other. Like Larry, Palmerston was adopted from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

During their shared time together at Whitehall, the two were constantly on-edge and were even caught fighting on numerous occasions.

Steve Back, a freelance photographer and owner of the Twitter account Political Pics, frequently documented the two’s strained relationship. In August of 2016, Steve photographed the two’s most graphic scuffle. Larry lost his collar in the fight, and Palmerston had an injured ear.

“I went and broke them up, and as I broke them up I got scratched on the leg. I was wearing long trousers but the claws went through to my skin,” Back told The Telegraph.

Back also added that armed policemen had to break up the fight. 

However, Larry eventually came out on top. Palmerston announced his retirement in 2020, citing the need to “take a step back from diplomatic duties and enjoy some me-time.” After the announcement, Larry’s unofficial Twitter account (which has amassed over 800,000 followers) could not help but tweet a heartfelt goodbye to his rival:

Enjoy your retirement old friend x”

— Larry the Cat via Twitter after Palmerston's retirement

Outside of his animal relationships, Larry has remained a more constant figure in United Kingdom politics than four prime ministers. Since assuming office over eleven years ago, Larry has outlasted four prime ministers: David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and Liz Truss. Currently, Larry is serving under Rishi Sunak, the incumbent prime minister. 

When David Cameron, Larry’s first prime minister, announced his resignation in 2016, Larry’s job was once again put in jeopardy. Rumors had already begun to circulate that Larry was a public relations prop and that Cameron secretly disliked the Chief Mouser. However, Cameron dismissed the allegations during a Prime Minister question conference and subsequent Tweet:

“I do [love Larry], and I have photographic evidence to prove it,” Cameron said, getting a laugh from the audience. “Sadly, I cannot take Larry with me. He belongs to the house, and the staff loves him very much, as do I.”

Interestingly, public interest in Larry seems to be rejuvenated in the wake of a prime minister’s resignation. Before Teresa May was expected to give her resignation speech, Larry had to be removed from the No. 10 doorstep in order to not be a background distraction. The internet joked that Larry was going to announce his candidacy to be the new prime minister. 

Ironically, after Teresa May’s resignation, Larry’s did facetiously tweet that he was going to compete in the run to be the next British PM, saying that if Boris Johnson was going to run, “then people deserve a serious candidate too.”

Despite Larry throwing some shade towards the future prime minister, Boris Johnson could not help but use Larry and Dilyn (Boris’s dog) as an optimistic metaphor for the future of British politics during his farewell speech

“And I just say to my party, if Dilyn and Larry can put behind them their occasional difficulties, then so can the Conservative Party.” 

However, Larry’s rockiest relationship with a prime minister unfolded when Liz Truss took office. Despite Truss only being in office for 44 days, the Chief Mouser made his distaste for her very public. For example, in a video, Liz Truss attempted to introduce Mette Frederiksen (the prime minister of Denmark) to Larry, but as Liz reached down to pet him, Larry quickly ran away, adding to Truss’s long list of politically embarrassing moments. 

Upon the announcement of Liz Truss’s resignation, Larry’s Twitter account once again made another reference to becoming the next prime minister. 

Despite a controversial and occasionally violent tenure in the Cabinet Office, Larry the Cat has accomplished something that most prime ministers have failed to do – warm the hearts of the British people. When faced with challenges, Larry has managed to, quite literally, claw his way out of them. Regardless of rumors that may circulate about Larry being removed from office, one thing is for certain – the Chief Mouser is here to stay. 

About the Contributor
Photo of Daniel Zacher
Daniel Zacher, Journalist

Grade: Senior

Hobbies: Playing tennis, spending time with friends, listening to music

Best Restaurant: Papa John's Pizza

Marvel or DC: Marvel

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