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UK Politics

The claws are out for Larry, the cat who fancies a nap

It's another tale of broken promises at No 10 as the rodents have a field day

We were promised a killer instinct and a readiness to clean up politics. Well, Downing Street, anyway. But as with some of his ministerial colleagues, the move into government has caused Larry the Cat to lose his way. The nation's premier pet is more interested in catnapping than rat-catching.

It is understood that the rescue cat spends most of the day asleep, waking occasionally to startle staff with a sharp claw to the calves. And then there's the fur. David Cameron's Savile Row finest has been covered in it on more than one occasion.

An aroma is also wafting through the corridors of power. Visitors with a keen sense of smell are picking up notes of cat food, despite attempts by staff to mask it with air freshener.

Larry is said to have won the hearts of even the toughest political animals, but some insiders are unimpressed. "He has shown no interest in the many mice in Downing Street," one recent visitor said. "There is a distinct lack of killer instinct."

At least George Osborne cannot withdraw his funding. In these straitened times, it is staff who pick up the tab for food and litter. They are, after all, to blame for his arrival. On 24 January the Prime Minister's spokesman told journalists there were "no plans" to get a cat to deal with rats in the street. By 15 February, the pro-cat lobby, apparently including the Camerons' young children, had secured another government U-turn. "There was a group of people within Downing Street who thought getting a cat was a good idea. They have won," the spokesman conceded.

Larry may not be entirely to blame for his failure to kill. According to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, where Larry came from three weeks ago, rehomed cats should not be allowed outside for eight weeks. That has not stopped one or two bids for freedom, notably when the film star and theatre director Kevin Spacey was posing on the steps of No 10 with Mr Cameron, and a civil servant inside was spotted catching Larry before he escaped.

The four-year-old tabby's poor performance is also entirely in keeping with warnings that town cats do not actually make good rat-catchers.

It would seem, however, that Larry is a reformer, having formed a bond with Mr Cameron's blue-sky thinker, Steve Hilton. It is said that the mastermind of the Conservative decontamination strategy had thought he was allergic to cats, but Larry's arrival suggests otherwise. Let's hope Mr Hilton, who pads around No 10 shoeless, does not get too much hair on his socks.

Cynics might suggest that it's time for No 10's beefed-up spin operation to swing into action and stage a "kill" for the TV cameras – which, after all, is where this whole saga began. On a dark night last month, a rat was seen scurrying along the front of No 10 as ITV's political correspondent Lucy Manning reported live from the street outside. Eventually a policeman chased it away. Maybe he could have a word with Larry.