You've heard of the dead cat strategy, but what about Dilyn the dog?

Written by John Johnston on 2 September 2019 in Diary

What better way to soften up your image amid a growing political crisis than adopting a rescue dog?

Forget the growing protests over the suspension of parliament and all that talk of a snap general election. Boris Johnson has just adopted a cute rescue puppy.

Dilyn, which means "loyal" in Irish (here's looking at you, DUP), was delivered to Downing Street by charity Friends of Animals Wales after being dumped by a puppy dealer because he was born with a crooked jaw.

Within minutes of his arrival little Dilyn was taking his first steps in the Number 10 garden alongside Boris Johnson's partner and environmental activist Carrie Symonds. Wearing a tiny pink rosette, the photogenic Jack Russell was put to work straight away to promote the government's "Lucy's Law", aimed at cracking down on puppy farms.


But the timing of Dilyn's arrival amid an afternoon of parliamentary plotting has raised a few eyebrows around Westminster.

In 2013, Boris Johnson famously revealed his affection for the "dead cat strategy" developed by notorious political campaign strategist Lynton Crosby as a means of distracting from a potentially damaging story. 

He explained: "Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The fact are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case.

Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner mate describes as 'throwing a dead cat on the table, mate'.

"That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table - and I don't mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. 

"That is true, but irrelevant."

He added: "The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout: 'Jeez, mate, there's a dead cat on the table!'; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief."

So could Dilyn's arrival be an attempt by Boris Johnson to produce cuddlier version of the Crosby tactic? Well, he's got form.

During the Conservative leadership campaign, Mr Johnson filled column inches and server space with the cutesie revelation that he enjoyed painting little wooden buses and "all the happy passengers" as a way to relax.

The announcement left journalists bewildered for a few hours, until the realisation that anyone searching "Boris Johnson + bus" were more likely to be offered stories about his painting habits than about his long history with another big red coach and it's claims about the NHS...

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