|Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office|
15 February 2011
Serving with Freya (2012–2014)
|Prime Minister||David Cameron
|Born||c. January 2007 (age 9)
London, United Kingdom
|Residence||10, Downing Street|
|Awards||Blue plaque at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, 2012|
After taking up his appointment, Larry quickly developed a reputation for being late to attend meetings and aggression towards news reporters. By July 2016, when Theresa May became Prime Minister, Larry had developed a reputation of being "violent" in his interactions with other local mousers, namely the Foreign Office's much younger cat Palmerston.
First year in Downing Street
Larry is a rescued stray cat from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home who was chosen by Downing Street staff. Media speculation had raised the possibility of a new feline arriving in Downing Street after rats had been seen on two occasions behind television news correspondents reporting live, with a Downing Street "pro-cat faction" having apparently won the argument. The cat was also intended to be a pet for the children of David and Samantha Cameron. After moving into Downing Street, Larry immediately courted controversy by taking a swipe at ITV News reporter Lucy Manning whilst being required to pose for a news item.
He has been described by Downing Street sources as a "good ratter" and as having "a high chase-drive and hunting instinct". Soon after he was taken in at Downing Street, a story ran in the press claiming that Larry was a lost cat and that the original owner had started a campaign to retrieve him. However, the story was later revealed to be a hoax, and no such owner nor campaign existed. David Cameron has said that Larry is a "bit nervous" around men, speculating that, since Larry was a rescue cat, this may be due to negative experiences in his past. Cameron mentioned that US President Barack Obama is an apparent exception to this fear: he said, "Funnily enough he liked Obama. Obama gave him a stroke and he was all right with Obama." Unlike his predecessors since 1929, Larry's upkeep is funded not by taxpayers but by the staff of 10 Downing Street. Fund-raising events to pay for his food are believed to have included a quiz night for Downing Street staff held in the state rooms. Larry's exploits and observations on life at Number 10 became the subject of a weekly cartoon in The Sunday Express drawn by cartoonist Ted Harrison.
In late February 2011, it was reported that anonymous sources were briefing against Larry, saying "there is a distinct lack of killer instinct." However, a senior Downing Street spokesman said that it was too early to make judgements and that Larry hadn't even been taken to visit his main work area in case he ran away. He finally made his first kill – a mouse – on 22 April 2011.
On 9 September 2011, Larry was spotted swiping at a mouse, referred to as "Mandy", which then escaped under a bush. On 14 November 2011 it emerged that Larry was spending more time sleeping, and spending time in the company of a female cat, Maisie, than actually hunting for mice. The cat's position was said to be "unassailable", even though it emerged that the Prime Minister had resorted to throwing a piece of cutlery at a mouse during a Cabinet dinner, in an ineffectual attempt to kill it. The Prime Minister's spokesman rejected calls for Larry's resignation, stating that "Larry brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people".
On 16 November 2011, Larry courted further controversy by sleeping for several hours as the entire cabinet traipsed in and out of Downing Street for a meeting. However Larry's apparent laziness was subsequently favourably compared with rival Freya's enthusiasm for top secret places such as the command centre during a military exercise which led to possibly tongue-in-cheek allegations of "dastardly foreign espionage." On 27 November 2011, it was reported that Larry had been banned from the Prime Minister's quarters in 10 Downing Street as his fur was ruining the Prime Minister's fresh suits.
Second year in Downing Street
On 15 February 2012, a party was held in Larry's honour to celebrate his first year in the office of Chief Mouser. He has captured the hearts of the Great British public and the press teams often camped outside the front door. In turn the nation sends him gifts and treats daily." Also, coinciding with his first anniversary, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home revealed that Larry's popularity had resulted in a surge of 15% more people adopting cats.
On 24 April 2012, Larry returned to the news due to his antics while waiting to be admitted to 10 Downing Street, and during the summer he was featured in the newspapers more than once, with photographs showing him sleeping. Larry threw himself wholeheartedly into the celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, taking a particular interest in the bunting decorating 10 Downing Street in June. On 24 June, George Osborne was reunited with his long lost cat Freya, who moved into 11 Downing Street. Freya and Larry are reported to have rapidly established cordial relations.
On 28 August 2012, to wide acclaim, Larry made his first killing of a mouse in public, dumping the corpse on the lawn in front of Number 10 to garner maximum publicity. In the September 2012 cabinet reshuffle, it was reported that Larry had retained his position as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. However, the reprieve seemed short-lived as Larry was reported to have been sacked and replaced by Freya, but despite this on 26 September Larry took shelter from the autumnal storms in the door of 10 Downing Street.
The confrontation with Freya over the prestigious chief mouser position came to a head in October as the two cats had a violent fight that had to be broken up by the police. Freya was reported to be the more dominant cat and more effective mouser, reportedly because her days as a stray had "hardened" her. However, the PM's spokeswoman insisted that the two tabbies were able to "co-exist".
Third year in Downing Street
On 15 February 2013, Larry's birthday was celebrated. It was also announced that Larry is supporting London Zoo's campaign to support Sumatran tiger conservation, and was pictured with a tiger cat toy along with a birthday card from London Zoo. A week later, a cat-proof barrier was erected to prevent Larry and his neighbour Freya from getting into the Foreign Office; however, public pressure forced William Hague to order that the barrier be demolished.
In June 2013 it was reported that Larry was considering running for London mayor. In July 2013, Larry was prowling the streets and was hesitant to enter 10 Downing Street with David Cameron, so had to be coaxed in.
In September 2013, tensions were reportedly growing between Cameron and Larry. It was reported that Cameron objected to cat hair on his suit, and the smell of cat food had to be disguised by air freshener when Downing Street had visitors. The Camerons were said not to like Larry, amid suggestions that the pet was a public relations prop. Cameron posted to Twitter saying that he and Larry got on "purr-fectly well". Nevertheless, bookmakers Ladbrokes made Cameron the odds-on (1/2) favourite to leave Downing Street first, with Larry as the 6/4 outsider. In October 2013 it was reported that government spin doctors were briefing against Larry, and that in fact Larry had caught four mice in two weeks and that one staff member had rescued a mouse from Larry's clutches.
Fourth year in Downing Street
On 15 February 2014, Larry's birthday was celebrated. It was announced that neighbour George Osborne had brought in a pet dog, Lola, in a new power struggle at Downing Street. Aides announced that Lola got on well with both Larry and Freya, but briefed against Larry by saying that Freya "is just a bit more efficient than Larry when it comes to mouse-catching". In March 2014, the Prime Minister was called to an emergency meeting about the Ukraine crisis, so Larry stood in and hosted[clarification needed] KM Group editorial apprentice Dan Wright in Downing Street. It was also reported that Larry entered regular fights with Freya. Following Larry's initial hosting success, he was enlisted to greet opponents of Lincolnshire County Council's decision to cut its library service.
In May 2014, Larry continued to take on responsibilities for entertaining guests, as he proved to be a more popular host than David Cameron for a visiting party from King's School in Mannamead. Later in May it was reported that Larry had re-established himself as the top cat on Downing Street, forcing Freya to flee temporarily, joining the ranks of the homeless. Freya was later chauffeur driven home by a member of Osborne's staff the following day, carrying a request to the Chancellor not to cut homeless services further. In the July 2014 cabinet reshuffle, Larry retained his position of Chief Mouser. Later that week Larry was photographed relaxing in the sunshine during a heat wave. The Downing Street friction between Larry and Freya came to the boil in August: after Freya was hit by a car and injured, Larry was reported "not to seem bothered". In November 2014, Freya was permanently exiled from Downing Street, leaving Larry with the sole mousing responsibility. In December 2014 Larry hosted a visit from patients of Great Ormond Street Hospital. To mark the end of 2014 a series of photographs chronicling Larry's career in Downing Street was published. In February 2015 Larry made his modelling debut as he featured on an artwork installed on the door of 10 Downing Street.
Fifth year in Downing Street
Larry's birthday was celebrated on 15 February 2015. The next day Larry was back to work as he hosted a round table discussion of Caremakers. Following the March murder of a dog at Crufts, David Cameron doubled security measures around Larry. Later in the month Samantha Cameron had her face painted as Larry for Comic Relief. On the first day of the general election campaign, Larry defended Downing Street from a police sniffer dog, Bailey. With the General Election going on Larry undertook additional duties, helping out in foreign relations by sending President Obama's dog, Bo, a chew toy. It was also reported that David Cameron's daughter, Florence, chases Larry around the house. During the general election campaign, the Labour Party confirmed that in the event of Ed Miliband being the next Prime Minister that Larry would remain as Chief Mouser.
On the day of the general election it was announced that Larry's seat on the cabinet was secure. With the absence of a prime minister, Larry was forced to guard Downing Street from a fox. Following this, Larry patiently waited for the other results of the general election to be announced. Larry had to be dragged back into Number 10 by a police officer for the first cabinet meeting of the new Conservative government. On 28 May Larry was criticised after he had failed to defend the home of the Prime Minister from an invading heron. On 29 May it was reported that Larry had been given a crocheted blanket by a member of the public, in his thank you letter Larry sent a photo of himself relaxing on the blanket outside of 10 Downing Street.
On 4 July a mouse ran across the sofa in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's office, sending one official screaming from the room. The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock eventually cornered the mouse, trapping it in a brown paper sandwich bag. The incident increased pressure on Larry's chief mouser position as rumours spread that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take over the Chief Mouser position. Just 4 days later Larry bounced back as the popular host to visitors from Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Primary School. However, in August Larry again came under scrutiny as a staff member described Larry as "a real annoyance". Larry blocked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from entering Number 10, so Larry had to be kicked into the doorway by a policeman. In November Larry bounced back by inviting Sylvia Barry to Downing Street to thank her for crocheting a gift blanket.
On 1 December 2015 Larry launched the "Text Santa appeal" with the help of Phillip Schofield. After the extraordinary Saturday cabinet meeting to discuss the results of the EU renegotiation, Larry was seen taking an afternoon stroll to consider his official position on EU membership. In late December former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, suggested that Larry should be asked to increase his responsibilities to include the Palace of Westminster, which at the time was being overrun by rodents.
Sixth year in Downing Street
Larry's birthday was celebrated on 15 February 2016. A month later, Larry's importance to the UK was compared favourably to a team of dolphins being trained by the Russian Navy. In April, Larry's poor mousing performance again came under scrutiny, and a new feline neighbour, Palmerston, moved into the Foreign Office on 13 April 2016. Just a week later Palmerston made his first kill, a mouse, to place further pressure on Larry's Chief Mouser position. During President Obama's April visit to the UK, Larry garnered many column inches in American news coverage.
The Daily Telegraph suggested that Cameron never really liked cats but the spin doctors believed Larry could make the PM appear more friendly. During David Cameron's final Prime Minister's Questions on 13 July 2016, the PM assured the House that Larry's role as Chief Mouser was secure even after the change of premier. Cameron also produced a photograph of Larry sitting on the PM's lap as evidence that he loves Larry and spoke of his "sadness" that he cannot take Larry with him.
After the news that Theresa May would succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister in July 2016, Cabinet Office staff confirmed that Larry would continue to live at Downing Street and would remain Chief Mouser under the new Prime Minister.
During May's cabinet re-shuffle, Larry's Chief Mouser position immediately came under pressure as he repeatedly squared up against Palmerston, mouser of the Foreign Office, the two cats fighting on numerous occasions. Larry's great public popularity caused a security scare in July when a pensioner sent him a bouquet of flowers on the day May was due to move into 10 Downing Street. Security staff initially refused to deliver the present, but relented when they satisfied themselves the gift was genuine.
In July 2016, MP Ann Clwyd raised concerns about Larry's welfare. Clwyd said that Larry looked in a "very sorry situation" and had been seen limping and holding his front right paw in the air. Other observers pointed out that Larry was also missing his collar. Leader of the House David Lidington assured Clwyd of Theresa May's good intentions toward Larry. It was suggested that Larry could have developed the limp following a fight with Palmerston, however, a Downing Street spokesperson could not confirm how Larry developed the injury. The Leader of the House commented that he hoped that Palmerston and Larry would establish a "modus vivendi". Larry later received veterinary treatment for the injury, paid for by Downing Street staff, and was expected to make a full recovery. After a couple of days of bed rest, Larry was back patrolling Downing Street. However, there were concerns that Larry could be missing Cameron and be facing stress due to the May family moving in. Despite these difficulties, Larry was given odds to outlast May at Downing Street.
Awards and recognition
A book, written in character as Larry, Larry Diaries: Downing Street – the First 100 Days by former Guardian journalist James Robinson was published in 2011. A picture gallery to celebrate Larry's first two years in office was produced by The Daily Telegraph.
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- [dead link]
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Title last held bySybil
|Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office