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Saturday, November 15, 1997 Published at 05:21 GMT


Humphrey bids a feline farewell

The British Government has been hit by news of a high-profile departure from Downing Street. Humphrey the cat is bowing out of front-line politics after eight years at Number 10.

A Downing Street spokesman said Humphrey had been suffering from a kidney complaint and had lost interest in food. A vet advised he would be better off living in the peace and quiet of the London suburbs away from the cut and thrust of political life.

Humphrey's departure brought a swift reaction from the Opposition. The Conservative Constitutional Affairs spokesman, Nigel Evans, linked it to the controversy over the Formula One chief's donation to Labour. The Government subsequently said the sport would be exempted from a tobacco advertising ban.

"Humphrey clearly can't stand the stench of hypocrisy which reeks from Downing Street after the 'donations for exemptions' affair," said Mr Evans. "Humphrey is voting with his paws to leave the Downing Street lair. After eight happy years under a Conservative government he could only take six months of Labour before he lost interest in living.

[ image: Humphrey: feeling pawly]
Humphrey: feeling pawly
"Perhaps, like all other groups who have suffered from Labour's broken promises, he didn't get the loving attention he was promised in May from the new occupants of Number 10."

After the May general election, the new Labour Government quickly denied reports that Mrs Blair was allergic to cats, or found them unhygienic.

"This is Humphrey's home and, as far as the Blairs are concerned, it will remain his home," said a spokeswoman at the time.

However, rumours of Mrs Blair's allergy have persisted among insiders.

Whatever the facts of that case, the black and white cat has in his time enjoyed the attentions of many admirers.

While Humphrey lived at the Cabinet office - and his food is understood to have been on the department's budget - one of his favourite occupations was to stroll down to Downing Street and perch atop a vent to enjoy the hot air from Number 10.

However, his relaxed manner was not without danger and shortly after the election he narrowly avoided becoming the Downing Street "splat" under the wheels of US President Bill Clinton's two-ton bullet-proof Cadillac.

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