Unmercifully Maligned and Treated Like Dirt for So Many Years, Larry Nevertheless Manages to Stick Around Long Enough in Order to See the Last of David Cameron and His Uncaring Family
|Larry Is Still Hanging His Hat at 10 Downing Street|
"Larry is staying. He's very much the Downing Street cat, not the Camerons' personal cat. He is a Downing Street legend."
-- a spokesman for the Cabinet Office
The momentous decision of the English people to bid a not so fond farewell to the European Union in a June 23rd national referendum sent shock waves throughout not only Whitehall but the world as well and that in turn culminated in the departure of Prime Minister David Cameron on July 13th. Numerous other heads rolled throughout the political establishment but once the dust had settled the most unlikely survivor of all turned out to be the prime minister's much maligned nine-year-old brown and white resident feline, Larry.
"Larry is staying. He's very much the Downing Street cat, not the Camerons' personal cat," a spokesman for the Cabinet Office told the print edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer on July 13th. (See "Larry Stays at 10 Downing.") "He is a Downing Street legend."
Cameron who, at least for the time being, plans on remaining in the House of Commons as a backbencher, wholeheartedly agreed with that decision. "He belongs to the house and the staff love him very much as do I," he declared to the Daily Mail on July 13th. (See "Mice Watch Out: Larry the Cat to Stay at 10 Downing Street.")
As nonsensical as both Cameron's and the Cabinet Office's reasoning appear to be au premier coup d'oeil, it is not without some small measure of precedent. For instance, when Humphrey wandered into 10 Downing Street back in 1989 he was allowed to remain there throughout the tenures of both Margaret Thatcher and John Major but neither of them was willing to provide him with a permanent home after their political careers went up in smoke.
The similarity in the treatment meted out to him and Larry ends there however because once the old snake charmer Tony Blair and his resident witch, Cherie, had gained control of the levers of powers in 1997 all the benevolence lavished upon Humphrey by both 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office went out the window much like a baby with the bath water. Almost as appallingly, there was not any hue and cry of protest to be heard anywhere on Whitehall concerning either the fact that the prime minister's residence was, most likely, the only home that he ever had known or his right to have lived out his remaining days there.
Instead, he was unceremoniously packed off to an undisclosed private residence in south London where he later died in obscurity in March of 2006. (See Cat Defender post of April 6, 2006 entitled "Humphrey, the Cat from 10 Downing Street Who Once 'Read' His Own Obituary, Passes Away at 18.")
As utterly reprehensible as all of that was, Humphrey is far from being the only cat to have been hideously used, abused, and then discarded like yesterday's newspapers by the politicians and bureaucrats who attempt to boss around the world from the comfort of their palatial residences on Whitehall. For example, in early 2008 cat and animal hater Gordon Brown ordered Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling to get rid of his cat, Sybil, who earlier had been brought down from Edinburgh.
Regrettably, she died shortly after her cruel exile at the undisclosed location of one of Darling's acquaintances. (See Cat Defender posts of September 19, 2007 and August 13, 2009 entitled, respectively, "After a Dreary Ten-Year Absence, Number 10 Downing Street Has a New Resident Feline and Her Name Is Sybil" and "Sybil, 10 Downing Street's Former First Feline, Dies Unexpectedly from an Undisclosed Illness.")
As recently as 2014, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who also fell from power with Cameron on July 13th, gave the boot to his long neglected cat, Freya, after she had lost out in a battle for his affections to his Bichon Frisé, Lola. The good news is that there is, apparently, life after Downing Street for some cats in that she is still alive today and believed to be residing somewhere in Kent. (See Cat Defender posts of November 10, 2014 and November 13, 2014 entitled, respectively, "Freya, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Resident Feline, Cheats Death Once Again When She Survives Being Run Down and Injured by a Motorist but Her Good Luck Cannot Last for Much Longer" and "Gutless Georgie 'Porgie' Osborne Gets Rid of Freya but in Doing So Lies About the True Reason Behind His Second Cruel Abandonment of Her.")
|The So-Called "Proof" of Cameron's Love for Larry|
The deafening silence of the Cabinet Office in regard to the ousters of both Sybil and Freya can perhaps be explained by the fact that both of them, unlike Larry, were privately owned felines. That does not account in any way, however, for its acquiescence in the Blairs' machinations against Humphrey.
When all is said and done, the distinction that both Cameron and the Cabinet Office is making between privately owner and governmental cats appears to be more contrived than real. It does furnish, however, a rather convenient rationale for allowing both politicians and bureaucrats to shirk their solemn responsibilities to them.
More broadly speaking, the thinking and behavior of Cameron, Darling, and Osborne is radically at adds with that of all genuine fans of the species who never under any conceivable circumstances would even so much as countenance the very thought of abandoning their beloved companions. In his defense, Cameron insisted to the bitter end that he cares deeply for Larry.
"(I want to end speculation that) I somehow don't love Larry," he told the Daily Mail in the article cited supra. "I do, and I have photographic evidence to prove it."
The proof of his affection consisted, however, of only a single photograph of Larry sitting in his lap. Besides the rather obvious possibility that the photograph could have been staged for propaganda purposes, one tender moment spent with a cat does not prove fidelity any more than the cameo appearance of a solitary robin is a harbinger that spring is just around the corner.
Even more telling, there is considerable evidence to support the contention that Cameron never wanted a cat in the first place and he demonstrated that antipathy as far back as 2009 when he and the Tories were still in opposition by nixing the idea of adopting one. (See the BBC, July 29, 2009, "No Plan for Number 10 Cat -- Cameron.")
Once he had come to power, however, he and his cronies immediately recognized the public relations bonanza to be reaped by bringing on board a resident feline and as a result the then four-year-old Larry was adopted by 10 Downing Street on February 16, 2011. "I'm sure he will be a great addition to Downing Street and will charm our many visitors," Cameron proclaimed upon his arrival.
Despite the unassailable fact that Larry's acquisition had been motivated by the basest of political motives imaginable, both Cameron and the media insisted upon perpetuating the myth that he had been brought in to catch mice. That was a ruse that the sniveling buttlickers at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in south London, who earlier in January of 2011 had arrested him in the street and unjustly incarcerated him, were only too happy to go along with for, quite naturally, a price. "Larry should not have any problem getting the mice under control," the organization's Kristy Walker ballyhooed at that time. "I can definitely see Larry holding his own."
As things eventually turned out, the rodent infestation allegedly plaguing 10 Downing Street turned out to be the least of Larry's worries in that no sooner had he set his paws inside the premises than the back-stabbing, character assassinations, and general disparagement commenced with a vengeance foreign to even Whitehall standards. The trouble all began when ITV reporter Lucy Manning made a stink about being scratched after she idiotically had forcibly attempted to get Larry to pose for her.
|Larry Warily Eyes Theresa May as She Arrives at 10 Downing Street|
Soon thereafter a peeler posted outside the world's most famous black door was photographed abusing Larry with his foot. That was quickly followed up by a seemingly never-ending stream of press reports calling into question his prowess as a mouser.
Cameron reportedly became so disgusted with Larry's alleged propensity to sleep while the mice played that he resorted to throwing cutlery at the intruders. (See Cat Defender post of July 21, 2011 entitled "Larry Faces Many Challenges and Dangers in His New Rôle as 10 Downing Street's Resident Feline.")
It even was feared for a while that he was about to be sacked. Thankfully, that never occurred but life did not get all that much easier for him.
There also were persistent complaints from staffers who had been scratched when they sat down on top of him. Being quite obviously either blind or every bit as mindless at Manning, they only got what they richly deserved but being totally unwilling to acknowledge their own faux pas they lamely attempted to pack off all the blame on Larry who, unfortunately, is unable to speak up in his own defense.
He later on was reportedly banned from the Camerons' refurbished flat following a £64,000 makeover because he allegedly was leaving cat hairs all over the place. "Poor Larry is being treated like some servant from Downton Abbey," Labor MP Kerry McCarthy of Bristol East complained in 2011. "It is shocking that after all the publicity he is not even allowed to set paw inside the prime minister's flat."
As if all of that unfounded criticism were not reprehensible enough, the baying hounds of Fleet Street even have begrudged him those few stolen moments that he has been able to spend in the company of Mark Wasil-ewski's cat, Maisy, of the nearby St. James's Park neighborhood. (See Cat Defender post of November 28, 2011 entitled "Larry Is Persevering as Best He Can Despite Being Constantly Maligned by Both Fleet Street and the Prime Minister's Duplicitous Staff.")
The torch has now been passed from Cameron to new prime minister Theresa May who will serve as Larry's nominal caretaker. Not a good deal is known about the fifty-nine-year-old clergyman's daughter who has represented Maidenhead in Berkshire in the Commons since 1997 and who most recently served as Home Secretary since 2010. (See The Philadelphia Inquirer's print edition of July 14, 2016, "It's an Upbeat Entrance by British Leader May" and The New York Times' print edition of July 21, 2016, "On a Day of Firsts, May Holds Her Own at Home and Abroad.")
The only thing that can be said for certain is that the aftermath of the Brexit vote is destined to consume a lion's share of her time and energies well into the foreseeable future and that could prove to be either a good thing or an ominous development as far as Larry is concerned. Most disquieting of all, the English media has been uncharacteristically reticent when it comes to May's views on Larry in particular and cats in general.
|Qué será será. Larry Is Content to Live in the Present|
As best it could be determined, the only recent public comment on the matter has come courtesy of the Tories' leader in the Commons, David Lidington of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, who told his colleagues last month that he could "completely reassure" them about May's good intentions toward Larry. (See The Telegraph of London, July 21, 2016, "Larry the Cat Treated by Vet Amid Turf 'Fracas' with Rival Palmerston at Number 10.")
Only time will tell how well that he is able to get on with the new tenants of Number 10 but if the nine-year-old moggy has demonstrated anything during his time spent in the political spotlight it is that he is a survivor. Hopefully, May will have the bon sens to realize that he is, arguably, the number one asset that she has going for her in the turbulent and uncertain days and years that lie ahead.
Although Larry in all likelihood is provided with an adequate supply of food and water, shelter, and access to veterinary care whenever he needs it, the proper care of a cat entails considerably more than those basics. Of particular concern in his case is his personal safety in that Whitehall, like virtually everywhere else nowadays, has its fair share of cat-murdering motorists, poisoners, thieves, and other assorted ailurophobes.
In that light, it is especially disturbing that, as far as it has been revealed, the Cabinet Office does not assign any particular individual the daunting task of looking out for his personal safety. Consequently, he is left to wander the perilous streets of Whitehall both night and day without the benefit of a chaperone and that can only be a prescription for disaster, if not death itself.
No matter how that his living arrangement is analyzed, it is impossible to come away with any other conclusion than that a gaggle of uncaring bureaucrats with their own political axes to grind are poor substitutes for a loving and conscientious guardian. Then there is the troubling question of what is going to happen to him once he has outlived his usefulness to both the Cabinet Office and the occupants du jour of 10 Downing Street.
In addition to the naked exploitation of cats like Larry by the politicians and bureaucrats of Whitehall as well as the media, the conduct of Battersea in this shabby business is simply abominable. Whereas any legitimate rescue group would put the needs, safety, and happiness of its cats first, it is only concerned with feathering its own nest by currying favor with the political elites.
Tant pis, absolutely no one involved in the least little way with Larry is willing to even acknowledge that sacred responsibilities accompany all forms of cat ownership. In addition to that, everyone involved is setting a simply disgraceful example of how a cat should be treated.
To put the matter succinctly, the politicians, bureaucrats, media and, above all, Battersea, either should face up to their responsibilities to cats like Larry or otherwise get out of the feline exploitation business once and for all time. That is not about to happen, however, because absolutely none of them are capable of even acknowledging that cats are morally sentient beings whose lives are worthy of being treasured and safeguarded; instead, they look down their disjointed schnozes at them as being little more than an endless supply of inexpensive political props to be exploited to the hilt and then afterwards to be gotten rid of in the quickest and most expeditious manner available.
It therefore does not seem unfair to consign all of those rotten apples to the same barrel that is currently overflowing with those coarsest of all souls who know the cost of everything but the value of absolutely nothing. Even more lamentably, Larry's distinguished service on behalf of 10 Downing Street and the nation as a whole has been to this very day both largely underappreciated and in vain.
Photos: Frank Augstein of the Associated Pres via the Daily Mail (Larry on the steps of 10 Downing Street and lying on the concrete), Twitter via The Telegraph (Larry and Cameron), and the BBC (Larry and May).