Larry the Cat stays: 5 things to know about UK power shift

AP News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2016 1:16 PM
Larry the Cat stays: 5 things to know about UK power shift

Here are five things to know about Wednesday's formal handover of power in Britain from David Cameron to Theresa May.

LUCKY 13?

Queen Elizabeth II sees them come, and sees them go.

As Britain's monarch ascended to the throne in 1952, Winston Churchill was already the prime minister. Since then, the queen has given her royal seal of approval to a dozen new prime ministers atop 16 governments. Make that 13 as of Wednesday. Elizabeth invited May to form a government in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace, formally clearing the way for May to succeed Cameron as leader of Britain's year-old Conservative government.

DAVID'S DEMISE

Before that, the queen bid a formal farewell to Cameron, Britain's leader since 2010, who as part of his office has held weekly "private audiences" with Elizabeth. He entered the palace Wednesday as the nation's leader and left as merely one of the House of Commons' 650 lawmakers.

Cameron has represented the district of Witney near Oxford in Parliament's key lower house since 2001. Now he's forecast to join those Conservative lawmakers who lack ministerial posts, are known as "backbenchers," and typically bray their approval of the prime minister's Commons remarks from their green leather Commons benches.

But Cameron's career is hardly over. He's only 49 — the youngest departing premier in more than a century — and can expect to make a killing on the global speaker's circuit. For now, Witney gains a more full-time MP for the first time since 2005, when Cameron rose to the national stage as Conservative Party leader. He has already relinquished that post to May.

VOTERS MAY

May became prime minister thanks to support from a strong majority of the 330 Conservative lawmakers in the House of Commons. Nobody else had a vote on the matter, because in parliamentary systems the leader of the ruling party gains a preferential right to lead the nation. Since British parliamentary terms last five years and Cameron's second government was formed only last year, May and her Conservatives don't need to face re-election until 2020. However, the prime minister also wields the power to call an early election should May judge that to be in her party's or nation's interest.

MOVING DAY

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Mr. Cameron.

Prime ministers normally reside at 10 Downing Street, a Georgian residence with approximately 100 rooms just a few minutes' walk from Parliament. But while Cameron held his final press conference outside the iconic No. 10 door, he and his family actually live next door in No. 11 as part of a residence swap with his neighbor, treasury chief George Osborne. Number 11 had more space for Cameron, his wife Samantha and three children aged 5 to 12.

Whereas the U.S. presidential system allows departing leaders more than two months to extricate themselves from the White House, the Camerons have had barely a day to clear out their home of the past six years.

The same company that moved the Camerons into Downing Street in 2010 arrived Tuesday to take them out again. Simply Removals says they contained the family's Downing Street possessions in 330 boxes, 30 rolls of tape and three rolls of bubble wrap.

LARRY MAY STAY

One family member is staying behind on Downing Street by mutual agreement: Larry the Cat.

The 9-year-old tabby is the government's official Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, a tradition with its claws in the 16th century court of Henry VIII.

After TV crews repeatedly spotted mice sprinting across Cameron's doorstep in 2011, the premier took his family to a south London animal shelter and picked Larry. The Mays and Camerons have decided that Larry should continue to keep ravaging the rodents of Downing Street. Larry spent much of Wednesday keeping watch on the press pack instead.

Nearby, addressing the Commons for the final time as premier, Cameron declared his love for Larry and brandished a photo of him cuddling the cat in his lap.

"Sadly I can't take Larry with me. He belongs to the house and the staff love him very much. As do I," Cameron said as lawmakers responded in unison: "Awwwww!"