This cartoon by Andy Davey from The Sun relates to yesterday's announcement by British Gas that it has made £270m in profit in the first six months of this year, a figure which is likely to anger millions of its customers facing big increases in their household energy bills. Read more >>
The cartoon shows two inspectors examining gas tanks for leaks. The tanks are marked 'British Gas Profits'. One of the inspectors asks 'Smell gas?' (i.e., Can you smell gas?). His colleague replies, 'No, I smell a rat', suggesting that British Gas is exploiting its customers.
If you smell a rat, you begin to suspect that something is wrong in particular situation, for example that someone is trying to deceive you or harm you. According to The Phrase Finder, the expression is said to come from the days when rats were common pests and carriers of disease. Dogs were prized for their ability to smell out and destroy them. A dog which began to sniff around might well have smelt a rat, and this idea was transferred to a person who was suspicious of something.