Eagle-eyed viewers spot newest (canine) member of House of Commons on TV

Jennie is a guide dog belonging to new Liberal Democrat MP Steve Darling, who is registered blind.

TORQUAY, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey meets Steve Darling, Liberal Democrat candidate for Torbay and his guide dog Jennie before going sailing with the Disabled Sailing Association at Torquay Harbour, on June 11, 2024 in Torquay, England. The Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto yesterday and will campaign for closer ties with the EU and put social care and health at the centre of its manifesto for the General Election on July 4th. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Steve Darling and guide dog Jennie on the campaign trail in Torquay last month with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey. (Getty Images)

There was a notable new face in the House of Commons as MPs were sworn in on Tuesday. But it wasn’t an MP, it was Jennie the dog.

Jennie is a guide dog belonging to new Liberal Democrat MP Steve Darling, who is registered blind.

Darling and Jennie took their seats in the Commons after Darling won the Torbay seat from the Conservatives in Thursday’s general election. He won 18,937 votes to incumbent Tory Kevin Foster’s 13,588.

Her presence gave eagle-eyed viewers something to smile about. BBC journalist Joe Pike pointed out it was "rare to see a dog" in the Commons that wasn't a police sniffer dog.

Ben Thompson wondered" "Who's gonna run his Twitter account?"

And Adrian Hilton was among those to say it was "great to see a dog back in the Commons".

But even as a newcomer to Westminster, Jennie has already been at the centre of political drama.

Last month, sight loss charity Devon in Sight accused Tory canvassers of “stooping to an all-time low” by allegedly suggesting Darling, who was previously a Torbay councillor for 30 years, was not actually blind.

According to a press release, a canvasser in the Livermead area suggested Darling was “faking his sight loss” and “using his guide dog for ‘political purposes’”.

Foster, the Tory candidate, said he had “never heard this type of line used”.

If that wasn't enough, Jennie was also the victim of an XL bully attack last year.

Darling told a local radio station of the incident: “As we walked past the driveway, sadly there wasn’t any gates there, and the dog just ran up and just launched itself straight at Jennie and went straight for her throat.

“It was awful, the screaming of Jennie on the floor, and so all you could [was] just drop down and start to try to grapple with the dog to try and get it to release Jennie. Fortunately… my colleague was there helping, trying to get the dog off, and then other people turned up and we ended up with four of us getting the dog off.

“I then held the dog until the owner turned up to reclaim it.”

Labour MP Marsha De Cordova, who was elected in 2017, is also registered blind. In 2022 she used a Commons motion to say there is a “crisis” in eye health and called for a national eye health strategy for England.