UK Politics

Boris Johnson's new spin doctor was Daily Mirror chicken

Mirror Chicken Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Lee Cain in full chicken costume in 2010, with then-Conservative Party leader David Cameron.

It has been revealed that Boris Johnson's director of communications used to be the Daily Mirror "Chicken" - a costumed character who mocked Conservative politicians on the campaign trail.

Lee Cain, who is considered an important figure in the Downing Street operation, was given the role while working as a journalist on the tabloid newspaper.

As a fledgling reporter - a "spring chicken", if you will - Mr Cain donned what the Mirror referred to as the "iconic" suit to torment Tory candidates.

He followed David Cameron around during the general election campaign in 2010, and was often pictured trying to ruffle the soon-to-be prime minister's feathers.

Mr Cain also used to pursue the soon-to-be chancellor - George Osborne - who reacted to the unmasking on Twitter.

An ex-colleague is quoted as saying that Mr Cain "attacked the role with real zeal and great passion".

The chicken crossed the road

Fast forward nine years and Mr Cain is now a key figure in the latest Tory prime minister's inner circle.

The chicken has crossed the road, from Fleet Street to Downing Street, and he is not the only former Mirror Chicken who has gone on to become a respected figure in Westminster.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Mirror chicken during the 2017 election campaign

Political journalist, Tom McTague, now writes for the US publication, The Atlantic.

"Lee was doing shifts, I think, at the Mirror when I was a young trainee coming up through the ranks," he remembers.

"We both, as lowly hacks on the paper, were given the job of donning the chicken outfit and running around London.

"Your job was just to have a laugh really and to put a bit of energy into it, and Lee was a very energetic reporter.

"He enjoyed the banter, getting out there and having a laugh."

Mr McTague told how he once approached Conservative grandee Ken Clarke while wearing the chicken suit.

"I said to him, 'Ken can I have a picture with you? Can I sit on your lap?' He said, 'No, you bloody can't!'"

The Mirror chicken first appeared in the 1997 general election to highlight then-Prime Minister John Major's reluctance to appear in debates.

And I'm told the character is ready to spring back into action in the event of a snap election.

Downing Street's new spin doctor ought to know better than most how to deal with any fowl play.

We've contacted Lee Cain for comment, but he's yet to stick his neck out.

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