Most Britons would agree that there have been a view filthy rodents living in Downing Street over the years.

But this time, there is a real filthy rodent living in Downing Street, and it's been spotted on TV.

The rat appeared on BBC News a week ago when a presenter standing outside Number 10 was making a report about the NHS. It scurried past the front door in the background.

A few days later, the rat appeared again when ITN (or ITV) News reporter Lucy Manning was making a report outside Number 10 about the resignation of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as Conservative Party Head of Communications over murky allegations of phone tapping when he worked for the newspaper.

The rat was again seen scuttling across the Prime Minister's residence's front door step.

But the pesky rat wouldn't normally dare to be in the vicinity of 10 Downing Street due to one of those eccentric British traditions.

10 Downing Street traditionally has a cat living on its premises as a rat catcher. The cat is given the title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet. In fact, there has been a Treasury or Downing Street cat employed as a rat catcher since the reign of King Henry VIII.

Official records, though, only date back to 3 June 1929, when AE Banham at the Treasury authorised the Office Keeper "to spend 1d a day from petty cash towards the maintenance of an efficient cat". In April 1932, his weekly allowance was increased to 1s 6d. By the 21st century, the mouser was costing 100 per annum.

As the cats are "employed" as civil servants,they do not belong to the Prime Minister in residence and it is rare for the Chief Mouser's "term of office" to coincide with that of the Prime Minister. The cat with the longest tenure at Downing Street is Wilberforce, who served under Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher between 1970 and 1988.

Between 1988 and 1997 a cat named Humphrey was the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet.

The post is currently vacant following the departure of the last incumbent, Sybil, in January 2009. Sybil, who began her tenure on 11 September 2007, was the first mouser for ten years following the retirement of her predecessor Humphrey in 1997. Sybil was owned by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, who lived in 10 Downing Street while the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, lived in the larger 11 Downing Street, usually the residence of the Chancellor, because of his wife and kids.

It was reported that she did not settle in London, and returned to Scotland to live with a friend of the Darlings.Sybil died on 27th July 2009.

He's rat it again: Downing Street rodent spotted on BBC News now appears on ITN.

By Matt Blake
24th January 2011
Daily Mail

A fame-hungry rat who scurried across the Prime Minister's doorstep during a BBC news bulletin has made his second television appearance in a week - this time on ITN.

The cheeky rodent surprised viewers last Monday when he scuttled into shot during a live BBC report from Number 10 Downing Street on how plans to reform the public sector could impact on the NHS.

And it appears he has developed a taste for the limelight after another daring dash in front of camera, behind the back of unsuspecting ITN correspondent Lucy Manning.

Fancy rat: The rodent sprung into shot as ITN's Lucy Manning gave her report

The furry fiend leapt from the shadows just as Ms Manning described details of Andy Coulson's resignation as Conservative Party Head of Communications over murky allegations of phone tapping at the News of the World.

One viewer said: 'It is ironic that the ITN report was about dodgy phone-tapping at the News of the World and then, right on cue, a rat jumped into shot.

'It is as though he chose the report especially.'

But before he could make a second bid for fame, the unwelcome news raider was chased from the scene by a policeman standing guard.

Downing Street rat: The rodent scurries past in the background as BBC reporter Gary O'Donoghue reports last week

TV star: A rat like the one that surprised viewers

It's fair to say he won't be the last such rodent to be seen in Downing Street, especially after Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office Humphrey the Cat retired in 1997.

The black and white stray, who arrived at Number 10 in 1988, served under three Prime Ministers; Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair. He died in 2006.

Sybil was the most recent of the cats to hold the title of 10 Downing Street's Chief Mouser to the Treasury. She had the job between September 2007 and January 2009.

Cats holding the title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet since 1924

  • Treasury Bill: 1924. PM: Ramsay MacDonald
  • Peter: 1929-1946. PMs: Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee
  • Munich Mouser: 1937-1940 and 1943. PMs: Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill
  • Nelson: 1940s. PM: Winston Churchill
  • Peter II: 1946-1948. PM: Clement Attlee.
  • Peter: 1948-1964. PMs: Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Home
  • Petra: 1964-1978. PMs: Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath
  • Wilberforce: 1970-1988. PMs: Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher
  • Humphrey: 1988-1997. PMs: Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair
  • Sybil: 2007-2009. PM: Gordon Brown.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 24th, 2011 at 01:12 PM..