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24 December 2015

The Political Animals of 2015

The New Statesman reviews 2015 from the perspective of four-legs-good...

By India Bourke

1. There were Dog Days for the Royals

2015 opened with a whimper from the royal corgis, the Queen’s famously favoured pets. According to a senior courtier she fears the animals could become a strain in her old age: “The fact is she worries about too many dogs around her feet and the danger she will trip up and hurt herself badly. She is after all 88 and not getting any younger.”

Image: Getty.

2. Politicians campaigned like cats and dogs

The first official day of election campaigning opened with a brawl in front of Number 10. Journalists watched in bemusement as the Prime Minister’s cat, Larry, took a swipe at Bailey, the sniffer dog. The fight prompted one Twitter user to ask: “But does the dog have a long term economic plan?”

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Image: Getty.

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3. Miliband got sheepish

Ed Milliband started the year insisting his image was nothing to dwell on. Yet the designers at Aardman animations appeared to think otherwise. In Janurary they provided Milliband with his very own plasticine look-alike: a waiter in the Wallace and Gromit spin-off movie, Shaun the Sheep.

Here he is:

​Image: Aardman

And here’s Shaun’s reaction to May’s election result:

​Image: Aardman

4. Cameron was out-foxed

The Conservatives didn’t have long to bask in their general election triumph. Before long farmers were herding cows through supermarkets to protest the price of milk, experts were casting doubt over the insanely expensive badger cull, and Cameron had back-tracked on one of his signature promises: a vote to water down the hunting ban.

​Image: Getty.

Comedian Ricky Gervias was among the first to celebrate the news that the vote had been cancelled, while adding a cautionary note: “Watch the propaganda start spewing out about how foxes want to eat the royal baby between now and when they try to vote again. #keeptheban”

5. No one liked the dentist

The death of Cecil, a Zimbabwean lion, at the hands of a 55-year-old American dentist forced the world to tighten its laws on trophy hunting. Animal Rights campaigners also saw success in Nepal, where authorities put an end to the Gadhimai festival’s centuries-old tradition of mass animal slaughter.

​Image: Getty.

6. Corbyn got Ned’s vote…

Ned, a three year-old tabby belonging to a Buzzfeed journalist, was registered as a £3 Labour supporter ahead of the autumn’s leadership election. The enfranchised feline certainly raised questions over the security of the party’s internal voting system. But did his choice of candidate help swing the vote?


Image: Buzzfeed.

7. … and was awarded Best in Show

New Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, shook up PMQs by crowd-sourcing his questions from the suggestions of over 33,000 Labour members. Not everyone took him seriously, however:


8. PigGate… happened

Pigs hit the headlines when a controversial new biography of David Cameron claimed he had “put a private part of his anatomy” into a dead pig’s head. The Prime Minister denied the allegations but that didn’t stop Twitter from hamming it up…

​Image: Getty.

9. The world grieved with Paris

November saw 129 people from at least 15 countries killed during a night of Isis co-ordinated shootings in the French capital. As Europe mourned, the story of Diesel, a seven-year-old Belgian shepherd police-dog shot during a security operation against the Parisian jihadists, provided a surprising symbol of unity.

Russia sent France a German Shepherd puppy, named Dobrynya (below), in an act of solidarity. Meanwhile, the Hacktivist organisation, Anonymous, vowed to continue hacking Isis in revenge for Diesel’s death: “We love people, we love you. We love Diesel, we love Lebanon, we love Paris”, a statement from the group said.

​Image: Getty.

Though some worried the theme was taken too far:


10. Meanwhile, in Brussels…

The Belgian city responded to a terrorism lockdown by posting pictures and videos of cats. The social media hijack helped drown out any information leaked about the authorities’ anti-jhiadist operations.

And was so successful that the police themselves joined in on the action to say thankyou:


11. And finally, an American Eagle showed Trump what we were all thinking

American elections are renowned for roping animals into their political silly season. Last year’s mid-term race saw senate hopefulls pose with alligators and brag about castrating pigs. President Obama has even mocked his rivals with a comparison to the feline internet celebrity, Grumpy Cat. This year, however, Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, has provided the press with a one-man circus.

Yet the joke turned sour after he issued a statement calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US. Sam, a 27-year-old bald eagle, has certainly had enough …