It’s the result you’ve undoubtedly been dying to know. This morning, SW1 played host to 18 special guests of the canine variety, who all descended on Victoria Tower Gardens for the nineteenth annual Westminster Dog of the Year competition.
Needless to say, the competition was taken very seriously by all involved, to the extent that, when Therese Coffey, the MP for Suffolk Coastal, called on her mother to give a character reference for Rizzo, her 12-year-old collie cross, there were cries of foul play from several of the other contestants. The fact that Simon Kirby MP had brought not one but two dogs with him also raised some eyebrows. But then Joni, a one-year-old Border Terrier had brought two owners with him (admittedly they were husband and wife, Jon Cruddas MP and Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill) to balance out numbers. It would seem that even when it comes to dog ownership, Conservatives are more individualistic and acquisitive whilst Labour favour co-operative or mutual models of ownership.
Cruddas and Healy were clearly feeling somewhat isolated politically, as the only Labour politicians in sight, and initially kept their distance from the other 16 contestants. But Joni was clearly out to make friends even if her owners weren’t.
Buster, Andrew Rosindell MP’s Staffordshire bull terrier, arrived fashionably late, having been chauffeured down to London especially from Rosindell’s Romford constituency home by not one, but two, local councillors. But he immediately became a crowd favourite as he modelled his very trendy Union Jack coat for the cameras. There was a worrying moment when Buster appeared to have been accosted by two passing police officers, until it emerged that the officers simply wanted to have their picture taken with this newly-appointed celebrity of the dog world.
The eventual winner though was Wilberforce, an affectionate Labrador, whose delighted owner, Neil Parish MP, put his success down to the fact that Wilberforce is “very good with people.” Clearly an important attribute for such a politically-active dog.
One question that the contestants were asked was what their dog would do if they were prime minister for the day. Some, like Buster, had quite a clear and broad legislative programme: he would repeal the dangerous dogs act in favour of some “more sensible” legislation, and he’d make sure the British people got their referendum on EU membership, apparently. Others seemed to have slightly more apolitical priorities. In particular, it seemed that ridding Downing Street of its current four-legged occupant, Larry the Cat, was high on the agenda for many.
The event momentarily risked descending into farce when somebody, presumably egged on by the not inconsiderable posse of photographers that had gathered, decided it would be a good idea to let all 18 contestants (that’s the dogs rather than their owners) loose on a Palace of Westminster-shaped cake. The result was, predictably, mayhem.
Overall though, a tone of mere silliness prevailed rather than outright farce, and the competition’s organisers, Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club, seemed very pleased by the amount of attention the event had garnered from members of the public as well as MPs. How many of them went home with a new-found passion for animal welfare may be a slightly different matter however.