What Steven asked the Medway Penguin
Plus what Steven asked the anonymous person behind the account.
When I decided to do these one on one interviews and needed to move beyond my first two, I knew straight away there were two more people whose local political stories I wanted to help tell. Luckily they were both on board with that, so we haven’t had to move into the world of unauthorised biography just yet.
Medway has a long history of anonymous Twitter accounts, almost as old as Twitter itself. Some Medway Twitter accounts seem like parodies, but they are real. But these true parody accounts mostly spring up around election time. Some are mean, some it is obvious who the person behind the account is, and some maintain an air of mystery and provide pertinent commentary. @medwaypenguin was arguably one of the latter. First appearing in 2018, the account offers commentary on the state of our towns as well as our local politics.
I sat down for back-to-back interviews with the Medway Penguin, and then with the anonymous person behind the account.
Where were you born?
I was born here in the Medway Towns.
What jobs did your parents do growing up?
My father was a tailor in London for a prestigious company, my mother was able to live on his generous wage.
How did you find school and university?
School was something that I endured. I was far from popular and sometimes picked on by some of the older boys. Despite this, I did adequately in my exams and went on to university. I enjoyed my student days as I was allowed to dedicate my time to solitary study in the field I loved.
What was your first full-time job?
I was a Sales ledger.
Where have you lived outside of the Medway Towns?
I lived within the Maidstone area, near Boxley for a time and of course at university.
Who has been the best Prime Minister of your lifetime?
I am not sure how to rate the nation’s premiers over the last four to five decades they have all had their pros and cons. The worst was probably Ms Truss though Mr Johnson is a close second. I would probably say that Mr Cameron had the most potential.
Day to day
What is your official occupation?
I own a small business.
What additional roles paid/unpaid do you currently do?
I do a certain amount of consultancy on issues within my profession.
What area of business do you specialise in?
The import and export of books.
How would you describe the current state of the Medway local business scene?
It seems to be in a precipitous condition, especially within the retail sector. With reference to my own business, there is a shortage of bookshops within the towns as a whole.
You’ve been quiet on Twitter for the last couple of years, what have you been doing to fill the time?
At first, as the covid pandemic descended upon us, I felt that I could serve the situation best by allowing the government, both local and national, to carry on without my input. Following the pandemic, I have been busy dealing with business and working on some personal projects.
What political parties have you been a member of?
The four main parties within Medway (the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens) have all got some good ideas and bad ideas with some good candidates and some not so.
At the time, what was your reaction to the coalition government?
I felt that the coalition government held a lot of potential for change and good in May 2010.
What was your reaction to the Brexit campaign?
I felt that the campaign was doomed to fail and that the British public were woefully misinformed by media and stories rather than facts and genuine figures. It was a prime example of appealing to fears and promising treasures versus an almost smug self-assured belief that the public would wish to remain.
What are your feelings towards the government’s Rwanda plan?
My word, it is a very backward idea. Again it seems that the government are appealing to the “bogeyman” of immigrants coming across the channel on an armada of rubber boats rather than looking at the current government’s other errors. The situation is a problem but I do not believe it is as bad as Ms Braverman is making it seem. Deporting people to a country whose human rights records are non-existent is really not a move that history will look kindly upon.
What is your current relationship with Kent’s police force?
Currently very good. I have had no need to call them in many years and have not seen an officer to speak to for the best part of a decade.
What do you think of the role of Kent Police and Crime Commissioner?
You know, I quite forgot we had one. He is fairly inoffensive but the much-vaunted role making a role within policing that was accountable to the public does seem like a failed experiment I’m afraid.
What concerns, if any, do you have that other members of Gotham’s night scene will follow you to Medway?
I do hope that the prancing fool, The Joker, does not arrive. This is mainly because he draws a lot more attention for little substance, much like a certain young Conservative councillor in the area.
Can you name two different charities that you think are doing vital work?
I would say that the Wisdom Hospice is a fantastic local cause that deserves support, as is the Salvation Army.
Would you stand for office?
Perhaps one day. However, I do not really wish to join a party and gaining a seat as an independent is exceptionally difficult and expensive.
How can Chatham High Street be saved?
The Medway towns need to find a purpose. The Dockyard closed almost forty years ago and we are still living in the wake of this. If the council could lure a new business that could employ a lot of people or generate a lot of supporting industry or business it would put more money into the hands of residents who would therefore wish to shop a lot more. However, this overlooks that retail and indeed banking has steadily moved online where there are no expensive overheads for building rentals and a much smaller staff. Is the death of all high street shopping an inevitability at this stage?
How can you improve Medway with regard to climate change?
A revised and more affordable public transport system that is somewhat more reliable, incentives for carpooling and more cycle lanes to get more cyclists out of cars, and more importantly off the pavements where I am constantly having to move out of the way.
What should be the first priority of the next leader of Medway Council?
I think that a shake-up of the workings of the council itself needs to be done. I feel the current incumbents have become too close to the council officers in an almost Sir Humphrey style. I think a shake-up might do everyone some good.
What are your current aspirations?
Nothing too ambitious. I have reached the stage of my life where the need for adventure has lapsed. I am content to let younger more energetic and ambitious people make their mark. I am contented just to have a say and try and temper the online dialogues, to remind the various factions that there are voters and residents who are the ones that should be convinced and placated, rather than tribal one-upmanship.
At this point, we turn our discussion from Mr Cobblepot to the anonymous person operating the account on why they decided this kind of parody account was necessary to engage in local issues.