Twitter was awash this morning with pictures of Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart, bending to stroke Larry the Downing Street cat as he made his way into Number 10.
Is @RoryStewartUK looking for the cat-lovers vote? 🐈🗳️
The Tory leadership hopeful's been spotted outside Number 10 patting Larry the cat ahead of a Cabinet meeting.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 11, 2019
However, Mr S couldn’t help but notice that Larry gave Stewart something of a cold shoulder, casually strolling away without a backward glance. Perhaps the sensible moggy could sense that Stewart is much more of a dog person.
Walking across Afghanistan in 2002, Stewart was accompanied on his trek by an ‘enormous’ dog who he named Babur, after a Mongol emperor. And in a 2010 interview with the Financial Times commented that the one thing he would most like to own was a dog. Of cats, Stewart says little.
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But what of the other Tory leadership contenders? Are they dog people, cat people – or simply using other people’s pups as a ploy to win over the public? Well…
Sajid Javid’s very professionally put together campaign video, which launched this morning, features his dog, Bailey, in prime position. The cavapoo yaps as his master throws a ball; but Mr S can’t help but feel that his coiffed curls might appeal more to the metropolitan voter than to the party’s rural heartlands.
Javid isn’t the only contender with an eye for a fluffy pet. Michael Gove’s three dogs are perhaps the most famous political dogs of the bunch, thanks to his wife Sarah Vine’s penchant for writing about them on Twitter and in the Daily Mail.
Snowy, the family’s original bichon frise dog, made headlines himself when it was announced that he had been ‘married’ to Lola, George Osborne’s dog. The most obvious thing that Gove’s dogs reveal about him is that it’s his wife who rules the roost – at least where the pets are concerned. Vine admitted when she bought her second dog, Lhasa Apso cross Muffin, that Gove was ‘not quite as in love with her as I am… he's still pretending very hard to disapprove, but I think that, secretly, he quite likes her’. We are yet to hear about what he makes of the latest addition, Monkee…
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Matt Hancock, like Javid and Gove, also appears to have a liking for the smaller hound. His long-haired miniature dachshund, Hercules, is described as being ‘short of leg, stout of heart’. Could the same be applied to his owner?
There’s a cat in the house, too: Norma, who appears unbothered by such trivial matters as red boxes and parliamentary matters. Hancock is also a horse lover and in 2012 rode in – and won – a charity horse race raising money for Racing Welfare and The Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund.
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Then onto Esther McVey; an interesting one as far as Mr S is concerned. She describes herself as a ‘dog lover’ in her Instagram bio – complete with a dog emoji. But there don’t seem to be any pets to speak of, although in April she appeared to be mulling the idea of getting a Cockapoo.
What does this mean? Is she merely courting the dog-loving population? Her partner, Philip Davies, did come under attack from animal welfare activists for filibustering an animal cruelty law. Could McVey be trying to make amends?
Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab have no pets to speak of – at least none that are actively supportive of their respective leadership campaigns. Andrea Leadsom also has no obvious pets, though is more than happy to use them as props on Instagram. However, during her year as environment secretary she did ban the sale of puppies under eight weeks and clamp down on puppy farms, so that’s a point in her favour.
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Then Jeremy Hunt. Well, while the Foreign Secretary does appear to be dogless, Steerpike has unearthed a Labrador specialist and author who also goes by the name of Jeremy Hunt. Does Hunt have a second job that he’s been keeping under wraps?
And finally, Mark Harper. His love for his two rescue Labradors is prominent on his website, where he writes that Chase and Sophie, ‘keep me fit as they love being taken out for walks near my home in the Forest [of Dean]’. That’s more like it. Labradors = typical Tory. Rescue dogs = modern man. When it comes to pets, Steerpike can’t help but feel that Harper has the upper hand.
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