September 12, 2007 / 9:40 AM / 10 years ago

No. 10 has its first cat since Humphrey

<p>Sybil, the new cat at 10 Downing Street in London, walks in the garden of the British prime minister's house September 11, 2007. REUTERS/Clara Molden/WPA/PA/Pool</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly a decade since Humphrey was shown the door to No. 10 Downing Street, the prime ministerial house has a cat in residence again.

Sybil, named after Basil’s wife in the classic 1970s sitcom “Fawlty Towers,” has moved down from Edinburgh with Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling and his family who are living in the three-bedroomed flat above No. 10.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his wife Sarah and their two sons live in the bigger flat at Number 11 Downing Street, traditionally the home of the Chancellor.

Details on Sybil remain scant for the moment but she shares a thespian name with her predecessor -- Humphrey was named after Sir Humphrey Appleby in the “Yes Minister” political comedy show.

She also enjoys a distinct advantage over Humphrey in that she comes with the family rather than the house -- which was widely believed to have been Humphrey’s ultimate undoing.

Humphrey, who died in March 2006, had walked into London’s most powerful address as a stray late in Margaret Thatcher’s premiership in 1989.

He lived there on and off during the John Major years as a passive Conservative ally but fell from grace after Labour’s landslide election victory in May 1997.

Six months later Humphrey was gone, amid much newspaper speculation that new occupant Tony Blair’s wife Cherie was behind the move.

“The Prime Minister doesn’t have a problem with it (the cat). Sarah Brown doesn’t have a problem with it,” said Brown’s spokesman Tuesday, confirming Sybil was now in residence.

She is far from being the first Downing Street cat.

Before Humphrey, the best known was Wilberforce who lived at No. 10 during the Edward Heath years, and who died in 1988.

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