7 April 2000

No porkies, as Winnie

speaks to Grimsby MP

Winnie, the centrepiece of

the pig industrys protest

outside the House of

Commons, is now something

of a celebrity. Who better to

interview her than MP and

broadcaster Austin Mitchell?

AM: Lets chat on a man-to-pig basis on Christian name terms.

WINNIE: Certainly. Which are you? Im Winnie, named after the bloke with the walking stick behind me. My handlers tell me he liked pigs but hes not spoken to me in all these weeks. Bit of a boar I think.

AM: Arent you fed up being stuck on this traffic island for weeks?

WINNIE: Oh, its always nice to get away from Newbury. I dont get out much in London but the day Pinochet was deported a police inspector told me I had to move for my own personal protection so they took me to a safe sty in Reading. Which was nice. Ive had a special shampoo, set and tail curl so now Im the smartest, cleanest and most deodorised demonstrator on Pinochet Island, as I call it.

AM: But how about all the traffic and the fumes?

WINNIE: Well, I can still hear Farming Today and The Archers on my on-sty radio. When I first considered moving here the police said I couldnt because of the smell. I told them Id get used to it, and I have. There are some funny folks on this island but my keepers keep them away from me. They wont let me be corrupted.

AM: Dont you resent being used for Party political purposes?

WINNIE: A bit. Ive always been Labour. When Labour voters used to say, "Id vote for a pig if my party put one up", I did think of standing. Cant get rasher than that can you? I couldnt now because they only select sheep. Anyway, New Labours making a Prescotts ear of things. My keepers tell me theyve even put a BSE stealth tax on us pigs – of £5.26. Bit unfair that. We pigs dont get BSE. Im pigged if Ill do anything to save their bacon after that.

AM: Are you doing any good with this pig protest?

WINNIE: Well Id have brought the old sow but no porkings allowed here in case it should frighten the MPs. A lot of people come to talk to me. Mainly foreigners but some politicians too, so I can speak to them in their own language. Every Wednesday that Alistair Campbell crosses this way going to Downing Street. Hes invited me to travel and reproduce. Thats nicer than he is with journalists.

AM: But are you going to win the argument?

WINNIE: Oh. Im not pigging around with politics. Look, if BMW, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, British Steel and the death of British manufacturing cant get them to get the £ down, Ive not got much chance. But Im perfectly happy to stay here.

Let me be honest with you, as we pigs say. I dont really want to win the argument. If I do its straight back to Wiltshire and the slaughterhouse*. Thats assuming MAFF havent already closed it.

Then my only hope of getting back here is as pork pies in the canteen. Hardly a fitting end for a national hero when I should have a statue like the bloke behind. So Im happy to stay here. Its a ring-side seat on politics and Ive got more influence than your average backbencher.

*Actually, Winnie has been promised a happy retirement at an animal sanctuary – ed.

Winnie searches for scraps of political gossip at the feet of

Sir Winston Churchill.