LONDON – Prime Minister David Cameron’s office denied Saturday that his family has no love for Larry, the Downing Street cat.
Following claims in a new book that Cameron’s acquisition of the moggy was little more than a PR stunt, a “savelarry” hashtag began trending on Twitter.
Larry was acquired in February 2011 after a rat was spotted in two television news bulletins scurrying around outside the black door of the prime minister’s residence in central London. But his efficiency has been regularly called into question and it took him a few months to make his first confirmed kill.
Reports have made him out as a cat more interested in snoozing than putting the frighteners on inner-city rodents.
Downing Street dismissed suggestions in journalist Matthew d’Ancona’s book on Cameron’s coalition government, “In It Together,” that Larry was an unloved pet. A spokesman said: “Totally untrue. He is very popular with everyone in the building and we all get on purr-fectly well.”
The Downing Street website says, “Larry spends his days greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defenses and testing antique furniture for napping quality. His day-to-day responsibilities also include contemplating a solution to the mouse occupancy of the house. Larry says this is still ‘in tactical planning stage.’ “
There have been resident cats in Downing Street since the 1920s. They have even been given the title of chief mouser to the Cabinet Office and put on the payroll.
The legendary Humphrey was a stray who took up residence under late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and outstayed John Major. Tony Blair swiftly sent Humphrey into retirement in 1997 amid persistent speculation that his wife, Cherie, forced him out. Humphrey received £100 ($160) a year from the Cabinet Office budget.
However, Larry’s upkeep is being paid for by Downing Street staff.