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The curious incident of Dilyn the dog in the Times

The curious incident of Dilyn the dog in the Times
'Dilyn in the snow' (photo: Pippa Fowles / No. 10 Downing Street)
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In one of the more surreal moments of Dominic Cummings’s testimony to MPs yesterday, the former No. 10 advisor suggested that Carrie Symonds and Dilyn the dog might be to blame for the UK’s sluggish coronavirus response.

Cummings told MPs that on a key day in mid-March, as the government began to consider locking down, No. 10 were first of all derailed by a Donald Trump plan to carpet-bomb the Middle East, and were then sent into a tailspin by a story in the Times about Dilyn the dog – Boris and Carrie’s resident pooch. According to Cummings:

‘It sounds so surreal it couldn’t possibly be true – that day the Times had run a huge story about the Prime Minister and his girlfriend and their dog. And the Prime Minister’s girlfriend was going completely crackers about this story and demanding that the press office deal with that. So we had this completely insane situation in which part of the building was saying “are we going to bomb Iraq?”, part of the building was arguing about whether or not we were going to do quarantine or not do quarantine, [and] the Prime Minister has his girlfriend going crackers about something completely trivial.’

Readers may be wondering what kind of bombshell piece about Dilyn could have potentially rocked the No. 10 operation during this pivotal moment of the UK’s pandemic response. It appears that Cummings was referring to an article which ran in the Times on 11 March, headlined ‘Downing St dog to be reshuffled’. The piece argued that Boris and Carrie were thinking about giving up Dilyn because the dog’s housetraining was not going well.

The piece certainly did cause some consternation in No. 10 at the time. Shortly after it ran Carrie Symonds issued a rare public rebuke, and insisted that it was in fact ‘a load of total crap!’

But could there have been a larger response from the Prime Minister or Number 10? Curiously, Mr S notes that in the intervening months the article in question appears to have been completely wiped from the Times’ website. Users now attempting to click on the piece (which was originally uploaded here) are now told that ‘This article has been removed’. The article does not appear to have been published elsewhere on the website. In other words, unlike every other Times article, this particular piece has been scrubbed from the archive.

Mr S will leave it to readers decide what could have possibly led the Times to remove the offensive article, and what Number 10 were preoccupied with as the country prepared to lock down…