The imaginary cow

The Widdecombe family cats, bringing a cow to Westminster plus a mysterious conspiracy by the BBC's

Ann Widdecombe rings, urging me to draw your attention to her website and the section for younger readers in particular. When I investigate it I find the Widdy Web Junior to be mostly about the cats Ann has known through her life.

The first of these was Jimmy, who:

"Used to go and meet my father every night when he came home on the bus from his work and he missed my brother when he went off to boarding school."

A sad tale, redolent of middle-class life of the period. But we can be consoled by the thought that Jimmy will undoubtedly have received a first-rate education.


Some weeks ago I reported that the farmers hereabouts are taking up tai chi and that, perhaps as a result, there has been a steady stream of cattle plummeting down abandoned mineshafts.

Ever since, readers have been demanding further reports of the Shropshire dairy industry. So when I heard that Mr Speaker had denied Daniel Kawczynski, the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, permission to bring a cow to the House of Commons, I thought I had my story.

In principle I see no objection to cows at Westminster – if nothing else it would raise the level of debate. But beware: Kawczynski’s idea is not as Ealing Comedy as it sounds. This cow would have been used to advertise the threat posed to farming by bovine tuberculosis. And in Tory circles that usually translates as “Gas All Badgers Now”.

But there is no ignoring Kawczynski any more. Before last week he had been content to keep a low profile - an achievement when he is the tallest man ever to be an MP.* All that changed on Wednesday morning when he went on the Today programme. They had asked him to talk about his campaign for a public holiday to celebrate the Polish presence in Britain. He had another purpose in mind: beating up John Humphrys.

As Kawczynski raged against “the liberal elite of the BBC”, Humphrys was swept away in a torrent of metaphors. The corporation, it seems, is using the Poles as “a cat's paw to try to tackle the thorny issue of mass, unchecked immigration into our country”.

There had been an increase in violence towards Poles and he was "convinced this is as a result of the media coverage by the BBC".

With its faint Middle European lilt, Kawczynski’s voice reminded this listener of Joe Bugner, the Hungarian-born British heavyweight of the 1970s. Except that if Bugner had been able to summon up that sort of aggression, he would have laid out both Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali when he fought them.

Kawczynski’s performance was not all spit and Polish: he was icily polite throughout. But I am increasingly fearful that the cow he wants to bring to Westminster is a lime green and pink one only he can see. It follows him to public meetings and radio studios, whispers in his ear of plots and conspiracies, and tells him what to say.

I have consulted the Commons authorities and am assured there is nothing in Erskine May against invisible animals. But for Kawczynski’s own sake I think Mr Speaker should stand firm.

* He beats Sir Louis Gluckstein, who sat for Nottingham East between 1931 and 1945, by a neck. Sir Louis is best remembered for captaining the Lords and Commons basketball team and helping the Serjeant at Arms by fetching things down from high shelves.

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