It has long been known that this parasite can be picked up by humans from their pets and this week it was revealed that there is new evidence about how extensively it can also change human behaviour.
This got me thinking. Has Theresa May been infected? Is this the explanation for the sudden death wish she acquired during the election campaign? She certainly seems blissfully unaware of the threats surrounding her and her party.
Most Conservative leaders would worry if they were 18 months away from losing their country’s biggest trade deal and had no clear contingency plans for a hard Brexit or even a vague idea about how they are going to implement the customs checks at our borders and manage the queues of lorries. May sails blissfully on assuring us all that the negotiations are going really well.
Most Conservative leaders would worry about losing the support of police and prison warders and the potential of a chaotic winter in the NHS. Not Theresa. She just announces that she is not only going to cut pay by 1.9% in real terms for the lucky ones but she is going to take the cost of the nominal increase out of running their service. So they get a pay cut and increased pressure of work. For the eight year running. May sails blissfully on assuring them that if public sector staff do the figures her way they will realise that their pay cuts really have been rises. Not a great way to win the respect of doctors who know the reality that if you started out as a doctor ten years ago you had no student debt, a final salary pension scheme, a higher salary and massively less pressure at work.
Most Conservative leaders would worry if they were being circled by rivals running campaigns to replace her and building up factions within the party with the sole aim of taking it even further toward the loony right. Johnson has taken to publishing articles on Brexit policy without bothering to clear them with the PM. Rees Mogg smugly assures us every week that he is not really running a leadership campaign. May sails blissfully on ignoring the obvious threat that an ideologically driven far right will capture her party and destroy it at the polls.
Most Conservative leaders would worry if they had just gone down badly in an election campaign because they were remote, aloof and trying to build up a cult of personality when they hadn’t got much of one. May sails blissfully on. Indeed she thinks her rejection at the polls gives her the right to engage in the biggest power grab any Prime Minister has got away with since the Second World War. She can now alter any ex EU law without bothering to go back to Parliament and get approval.
Every week that goes by we get further evidence of how isolated she is from her own party and she becomes more and more isolated from the reality of the lives her subjects are actually living. When she gave her acceptance speech I wrote that it is always wise to assume that newly elected leaders will do pretty much the opposite of whatever they say on the steps of number 10. After all Margaret Thatcher had promised us to bring harmony and Tony Blair was going to specialise in ethical foreign policy.
Rarely has a prediction proved more accurate. May had the cheek to tell us she was going to look after the “just about managing”. Instead she has utterly neglected their needs. Real wages are down again and haven’t moved up since the day the Conservatives were elected. Zero hours contracts and enforced self-employment continue to proliferate. Steel workers have their pensions stolen with government support. Young people are being charged over 6% to borrow money on their £40,000 of student debt whilst banks offer 1% to savers. And the residents of Grenfell Tower are still in B&Bs whilst a judge they don’t trust leads an enquiry without teeth.
The country is utterly fed up with ten years of austerity created by a private sector banking problem and in no mood to put up with another round. Yet Osborne left May and Hammond to cope with plans for the worst of austerity to strike in the next couple of years so new cuts have to be made. Worse still the Bank of England has begun to pull the plug on its gigantic efforts to counteract government cuts and keep the economy moving. So May also faces an economic slowdown.
The Prime Minister is heading for the perfect storm. A worsening economy. Domestic unpopularity. A split party with weak personal support. A difficult and complex set of controversial negotiations to conduct. And a public that is no longer prepared to be cowed by calls for yet more austerity.
Her only tactic is to smile and tell us that she is tough enough to see us through all this because she really is strong and stable. What could possibly go wrong? Who could possibly doubt her?
Except perhaps those of us who don’t share her political death wish.