Dead cat strategy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The dead cat strategy, also known as deadcatting, is the political strategy of deliberately making a shocking announcement to divert media attention away from problems or failures in other areas.[1][2] The present name for the strategy has been associated with British former prime minister Boris Johnson's political strategist Lynton Crosby.


While he was mayor of London, Boris Johnson wrote a column for the 3 March 2013 edition of The Telegraph in which he described the "dead cat" as a piece of Australian political strategy about what to do in a situation in which the argument is being lost and "the facts are overwhelmingly against you".[3][4]

There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.[1]

Johnson employed the Australian Lynton Crosby as his campaign manager during the 2008 and 2012 London mayoral elections, leading to press speculation that he was the "Australian friend" in the story.[5][4]


Political lecturer Grant Rodwell describes the strategy as having found "some political traction" during the 2015 United Kingdom general election, the Conservative campaign for which Lynton Crosby led,[6] and in which Johnson successfully stood to return as an MP. At a point when Labour's campaign had been gaining momentum, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon accused Ed Miliband of having "stabbed his own brother in the back to become Labour leader" and saying that this meant he was "willing to stab the United Kingdom in the back to become prime minister" by scrapping Trident.[1] The Guardian described this as a "crude" and "brutal" attack that some commentators thought would backfire, but it successfully moved that day's media focus from Labour's policies to Fallon's statement.[1]

Rodwell notes the term later finding a place in media coverage of the "outrageous pronouncements" made by Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries and his later presidential transition in the United States.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Delaney, Sam. "How Lynton Crosby (and a dead cat) won the election: 'Labour were intellectually lazy'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  2. ^ Riley, Charlotte Lydia (19 November 2019). "Dear journalists: please stop calling everything a "dead cat"". Prospect Magazine. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  3. ^ Johnson, Boris (3 March 2013). "This cap on bankers' bonuses is like a dead cat – pure distraction". The Telegraph.
  4. ^ a b Smith, David (16 June 2019). "Boris Johnson's dead cat tactics on tax and a no‑deal Brexit". The Times.
  5. ^ Syal, Rajeev (2 Feb 2022). "Why is Boris Johnson making false claims about Starmer and Savile?". The Guardian.
  6. ^ a b Rodwell, Grant (7 April 2020). Politics and the Mediatization of School Educational Policy: The Dog-Whistle Dynamic. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-000-05466-8.