Dead cat strategy

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The dead cat strategy, also known as deadcatting, is the political strategy of deliberately making a shocking announcement to divert media attention away from problems or failures in other areas.[1] The present name for the strategy has been associated with UK prime minister Boris Johnson's political strategist Lynton Crosby.


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While he was Mayor of London, Boris Johnson wrote a column for the 3 March 2013 edition of The Telegraph in which he described the "dead cat" as a piece of Australian political strategy about what to do in a situation in which the argument is being lost and "the facts are overwhelmingly against you".[2][3]

There is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout, ‘Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!’ In other words, they will be talking about the dead cat – the thing you want them to talk about – and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.[4]

Johnson employed the Australian Lynton Crosby as his campaign manager during the 2008 and 2012 London mayoral elections, leading to press speculation that he was the "Australian friend" in the story.[5]


Some observe that the strategy is used not only to distract when an argument is being lost but also to avoid responsibility or the repercussions of misconduct.[6][7][8] Academics claim that continued use of the dead cat strategy is unsustainable,[9] because the repeated staging of outlandish 'newsworthy pseudo-events' cannot go unnoticed over time, even if it has been used to win previous elections.[10]

Dead cat

On 30 June 2022, in response to news that Conservative Party deputy chief whip Chris Pincher had resigned after he is said to have groped two men while he was drunk,[11] Lady Lawson of Galloway tweeted:

What chance #ChrisPincher is a #DeadCat..?...anything but #Carriegate[12]

Parody Boris tweeted:

A masterclass in political communication: Pressurise the press into pulling a story that doesn’t mention a blowjob, thereby ensuring that the whole world finds out that Carrie noshed me off in my office. #Carriegate #BloJo[13]

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