Barking Blondes: Pets in politics and Westminster Dog of the Year
On Thursday, Noodle, a cocker spaniel-poodle, belonging to the International Development Minister Alan Duncan took the top award at Westminster Dog of the Year. The final was judged on the lawns outside the House of Commons.
They say if you want a friend in politics get a dog. We wonder if dogs could be seen as vote winners?
Remember the London Mayor election campaign with Ken Livingstone, seen out electioneering with his yellow Labrador Coco? He must have caught the attention of most dog lovers. Boris, on the other hand doesn’t have a dog at the moment, although his sister Rachel does. She is also called Coco and once had her own column in The Lady magazine. They both appeared on our radio show last year promoting dogs in the work place.
During the Eighties we lived in North London’s South End Green. We would often bump into Labour leader Michael Foot walking his dog Dizzy on Hampstead Heath. Dizzy was a chow cross. His full name was Disraeli. The two of them plodded along, deep in thought. As with all dog owners, there was always an acknowledgement to one another when passing. It’s quite democratic, scooping up poop alongside a political leader.
We have put in endless bids for one of the Obamas to join us on our dog radio show to discuss their choice of Portuguese Water Dog, Bo. As yet we have had no luck. But how clever for a newly elected president to make the choice of family dog, one of his first major decisions. The Dogs Trust celebrates Westminster Dog Day every year. It gives all dog-loving MPs a chance to celebrate their mutts on the grass, outside Parliament…It’s also a perfect photo opportunity.
Nixon once referred to a dog he had bought his daughter having called it Checkers. A black and white spaniel. – I – “And that dog we’ll be keeping,” he reiterated . This speech became known as the”Checkers Speech” and won him another term… because people empathised with him getting a dog!
It’s a shame we don’t have a dog in Number 10. Maybe it’s the lack of green space compared to the White House. Even the cat was given short shrift. Churchill lived there on and off with his miniature poodle Rufus. When that dog died he got another called Rufus. And when that died, another called… Rufus. How clever. Must help when suffering with short-term memory loss. This is a breed that doesn’t shed. So no chance of hairs sticking to a visiting pin stripe suit.
Strange that whenever we walk our bulldog Matilda, people comment: “Ah, Churchill”, yet this British of British politicians favoured a French breed. The last dog in residence at Number 10 was Harold Wilson’s dog Paddy. We met him in Huddersfield whilst we were filming an episode of Last Of The Summer Wine. How bizarre was that? He was seated in the bar of The Huddersfield Hotel. This was in the fuggy days when smoking inside was permitted. His pipe in his mouth with his dog by his side Harold and Paddy looked very content.
‘Barking Blondes’ by Anna Webb & Jo Good, published by Hamlyn, £12.99Westminster Dog of the Year
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