Larry the Cat staying put at 10 Downing Street

Larry the Cat is the only member of the Downing Street household who does not have to move out.
Larry the Cat is the only member of the Downing Street household who does not have to move out.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • The cat can stay.

The only member of the household in Downing Street to be spared the indignity of one of the fastest political transitions in recent memory will be Larry the Cat, a tabby that holds the title of chief mouser to the Cabinet office.

The sudden victory of Mrs Theresa May, Britain's Home Secretary, in the Conservative Party's leadership contest on Monday put Prime Minister David Cameron in the unenviable position of having to vacate his residence in about 48 hours.

A large blue moving van pulled up in Downing Street on Tuesday to retrieve his family's belongings. It is a rite of passage Britain has experienced many times.

A prime minister typically takes up official residence at 10 Downing Street upon getting the job, as Mr Cameron did in 2010, when his Conservative Party took power after 13 years of Labour Party government. "This is how British democracy works. When the leader changes, the prime minister changes, and the evacuation of the premises soon follows. It's a quick departure, but it is what it is," a spokesman for Mr Cameron's office said in a phone interview on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of government protocol.

But Larry the Cat will be staying, the government spokesman said wryly, adding that Mrs May would inherit the tabby, adopted from an animal shelter in 2011 to help address a rat problem.

On Monday, after he announced the timetable of his departure and expressed his support for Mrs May, Mr Cameron was recorded jovially humming as he re-entered 10 Downing Street, seemingly relieved.

But the rapid departure poses logistical challenges for Mr Cameron and his wife, Samantha, including the question of where to live.

The Camerons have three children - their youngest, Florence, is five - and hope to stay in the capital. But their home in the North Kensington area of west London has been rented out, and their farmhouse in the hamlet of Dean, Oxfordshire, about 117km north-west of London, is probably too far for daily commuting.

The arrival of the moving van at the rear entrance in Downing Street suggested that the Camerons have at least found temporary lodgings, although officials would not confirm this.

The house at 10 Downing Street has been the official residence of the Prime Minister since 1735, but the Cameron family actually lived in more spacious quarters at 11 Downing Street. That house is the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but in 2010, the Chancellor, Mr George Osborne, chose to remain at his residence in the Notting Hill section of west London.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Larry the Cat staying put at 10 Downing Street'. Print Edition | Subscribe