Lynton Crosby propelled the phrase into political use. Or rather, a report of him using it did. It means: when in trouble over something, deploy something else to distract attention.
A live cat is even better. And in Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson has found one. This way! Look! Over here!
The Prime Minister could have sent for Oliver Dowden, the deft pair of hands. Or Nadhim Zahawi, after his energetic labour in the Covid stables. Or Michael Gove, chair of a new Cabinet committee on public services.
Instead, he has detonated the biggest bang possible. The Saj is back! What was that you said? Matt Who?
The move avoids a big shuffle. It also represents a further closing of the waters over the era of Dominic Cummings. Javid’s resignation was a consequence of a decision at the top to curb Treasury power and expand Number Ten’s.
Conspiracy theorists will claim that by building Javid up, the Prime Minister is inching Rishi Sunak down. After all, the new Health Secretary is a former leadership contender himself. The potential succession to Johnson is now just a little bit more complicated.
We’re not at all sure that Javid would have got the job in the bigger shuffle. Work and Pensions, Education or even the Foreign Office were, on balance, more likely.
For health policy will be the most prominent challenge for the Government as we move towards the next election – with a growing NHS backlog; the burning problem of social care; a mental health bill due, and a health service reorganisation too.
The first test for Javid will be to see where he stands on Covid. Is his view at the restrictive end of the spectrum, like Hancock’s?
Johnson won’t have liked handing Cummings a win, as he will see it, over the former Health Secretary. He will hope that this appointment takes the edge of it. As well as signallling a reconciliation with Javid.
The former Chief Adviser is having none of it – and already trying to take the shine off the appointment. “So Carrie appoints Saj,” he tweets. Amidst further complimentary remarks. (The Prime Minister’s wife was the new Health Secretary’s former adviser.)
We wish Javid the very best of luck. He’s going to need it.