Unsanctioned penguins

Stalinism is all the rage, as think tanks seek to relocate the population. Meanwhile, Telford's peng

I have a scoop. A genuine scoop. Or something very close to it.

We Midlanders remained neutral on the Policy Exchange report that wanted everyone to abandon Northern England and move to Oxford or Cambridge (I paraphrase.) We just enjoyed the grief it caused the Conservative Party.

But it happens that I know the report’s lead author, Tim Leunig, and he is not a Tory at all. He is a Liberal Democrat. In the days when they still let me through the door at Lib Dem HQ he was something of a fixture on the party’s policy working groups.

The press largely failed to pick this up, and it took two days for anyone to brief David Cameron on the subject. Like the rest of us, his backroom staff assumed he did want to close the region down. Some thought he wanted to sell off the population for medical experiment too.

This will be a disappointment to Cameron. For some time he has been embarked on a strategy to rebuild Conservative support in the North. It began in the Arctic Circle (where he is still remembered fondly by the huskies) and last week swung southwards to take in a visit to marginal seats in the North West of England.

My own worry about the report was that its talk of relocating people and building new cities had a tinge of the Soviet about it. It was a 21st century take on building dams to water the Uzbek cotton fields

People have always moved to find work, of course. But they don’t need the government to tell them to do it.

Down the road from here is the site of a mining village called The Bog. Its school has become a visitor centre for the surrounding hills. (I recommend the home-made cakes.)

A few decades ago a hundred children were educated there, and they must have lived somewhere. Bur when I visit it out of season now, I am alone with the curlews.


There are reports from Telford of an outbreak of resistance.

A few days ago the Shropshire Star carried this story:

Two campaigners dressed as penguins were removed from Telford Town Park after being told they would need a criminal record check and risk assessment to hand out leaflets.

One of the penguins, Rachel Whittaker, said:

“It was only a fun thing. I was saying to people ‘Hello I’m a penguin and my ice cap has melted so I’ve ended up in Telford - can I give you a leaflet’. People were loving it.”

But officialdom was implacable.

Hearteningly, that was not the end of the matter. Rachel and her fellow penguin have returned to the park and comments on the newspaper’s website have been supportive:

How ridiculous! when people have been mugged in Hollinswood and Wellington … that’s what we need to be monitoring, not innocent people in penguin suits.


The Daily Mail journalist Allison Pearson is being sued for failing to deliver a novel for which she received a large advance.

There is an irony in this.

Long ago and far away, I was at school with a girl called Allison Lobbett. And all authorities agree that she grew up to become Allison Pearson.

She had no trouble writing in those days. If you held up your hand for more paper before she did during the O levels you were doing really well.

People who want the inside story should make the journey out here more often. We know such interesting things, me and the curlews.

Jonathan Calder has been a district councillor and contributed to speeches by Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. These days he prefers to poke gentle fun from the sidelines. He blogs at Liberal England