A fox has been found running loose in parliament, leading a merry chase through the halls at the heart of British democracy.
It is unclear how the creature found its way into the building, reportedly managing to infiltrate the highest level of Portcullis House and appearing to leaving excrement outside the office of a Labour MP.
A hunt was quickly established, with a Westminster correspondent at The Sun offering live updates as heavily-gloved officials gave chase across multiple floors.
Police eventually captured the animal, escorting it out of the building under a box and releasing it back onto the streets of Whitehall.
Politicians and civil servants expressed their bemusement at the episode.
“So apparently there was a fox running around in Portcullis House atrium about half an hour ago, and now I’ve just found this outside my office (two floors up!),” Kerry McCarthy, Labour’s former shadow environment minister, wrote on Twitter.
“I can’t believe I missed all the drama and just found the poo.”
Conservative MP Julia Lopez added: “Just leaving Westminster office for the night and see a fox climbing escalator into Portcullis House. We have seen some strange things in Parliament since 2017, but this tops it!”
“Some light relief from viruses, the Budget, US primaries etc,” said Jo Johnson, who works at the Treasury. “As if there weren’t enough fauna in Whitehall buildings already, apparently a fox got into Portcullis House and made it up to the fourth floor.”
Others questioned whether chasing foxes was a bizarre parliamentary ritual.
“If the ritual removal of a fox from parliament isn’t another one of those zanily arcane parliamentary procedures, like ritually slamming a door in some liveried person’s face to open their session, I don’t want to know,” said Anjali Dayal, assistant professor of International Politics at New York’s Fordham University.
Some social media users made joking references to prominent barrister Jolyon Maugham QC, who recently courted controversy after writing on Twitter: “Already this morning I have killed a fox with a baseball bat. How’s your Boxing Day going?”
Mr Maugham said he had contacted and left his details with the RSPCA, adding: “No one should relish killing animals – and I certainly didn’t. But if you haven’t been up close to a large trapped fox, perhaps reserve judgement.”
It’s not the first time an animal has found its way inside parliamentary buildings.
In January 2018, a robin found its way into the House of Commons chamber during Prime Minister’s Questions.
As the bird fluttered around near the ceiling, the SNP’s Ian Blackford joked Theresa May’s stand-in David Lidington could be “sending out a round robin letter”, speculating Mr Lidington could be “auditioning for a new role”.