Dead cat strategy

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The dead cat stategy, 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 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]


Some observe that the strategy is used not only to distract when an argument is being lost but also to avoid responsibility or the repercussions of misconduct.[6][7][8] Academics claim that continued use of the dead cat strategy is unsustainable,[9][10] because the repeated staging of outlandish 'newsworthy pseudo-events' cannot go unnoticed over time,[11][12] even if it has been used to win previous elections.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ "Boris Johnson's Rwanda migrant announcement is a lazy diversion tactic at best". the Independent. 14 April 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  7. ^ "Boris Johnson bets on a 'dead cat' strategy to get him out of trouble". The Week. 23 April 2021. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  8. ^ "Is Boris Johnson using 'dead cat' strategy in latest Dominic Cummings row?". the Independent. 14 April 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2022.(subscription required)
  9. ^ "Boris Johnson's familiar 'dead cat' strategy". Yorkshire Post. 13 December 2021. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  10. ^ "Boris Johnson is a master of distraction. What if that stops working?". The Washington Post. 15 April 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  11. ^ Blumer, J. G. (5 February 2019). "Mediatization as a combination of push and pull forces: Examples during the 2015 UK general election campaign". Journalism. 20: 855–872. doi:10.1177/1464884918754850.
  12. ^ Blumer, J. G. (31 January 2018). "The Crisis of Public Communication". Javnost - The Public Journal of the European Institute for Communication and Culture. 23: 87–108. doi:10.1080/13183222.2018.1418799.
  13. ^ "How Lynton Crosby (and a dead cat) won the election: 'Labour were intellectually lazy'". The Guardian. 20 Jan 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2022.