Professor Pongoo: I wanted to bang some heads together

Mike Ferrigan, aka Professor Pongoo the penguin, wasn't surprised by his success in beating the Liberal Democrats and Green candidates in the Edinburgh council elections.

Professor Pongoo goes through his correspondence

Professor Pongoo goes through his correspondence

He knew the support he had in the local community, built up over three decades and cemented by a solo leafleting campaign financed with his savings and printed on recycled paper. What surprised him, however, was the level of national and international attention he received.

"I did enjoy taking the limelight away from the politicians with their rosettes and smart suits and all their self-important posturing," he told MSN.

Ferrigan won 5.6% of first preference votes in the Pentland Hills ward for Edinburgh city council. The Libe Dems got 4.7%. It wasn#t enough to win a seat but it did grab a headline in almost every national paper.

"The idea was to get the penguin into the council and bang a few heads together"

Depending on who you believe, Professor Pongoo is either an alien summoned by his relative Pingu to help explain to earthlings the damage they are causing to their planet, or a last minute invention of Mr Ferrigan to capture the attention of a local scout troop before a presentation on global warming.

However, there's no doubt about his message: the need for change.

"Party politics has always been confrontational, very divisive, very tribal. We've got into a double dip recession and taken the planet to the edge in terms of resource depletion and yet we go on making the same mistakes," said Mr Ferrigan, 56, in a telephone interview from his home (he doesn't own a mobile and it would be impossible to operate with his flippers anyway).

"I may have a career as Professor Pongoo but right now I'm knackered"

"The idea was to get the penguin into the council and bang a few heads together."

Around 500 politicians in Scotland make the decisions that rule the lives of a population of five million, he estimates - hardly a "representative democracy". Professor Pongoo's alternative is to devolve decision-making out of Parliaments and council chambers and into local communities.

The low turnout in Thursday's vote appears to back up his point that many voters feel disenfranchised.
"If you have an Arab Spring aspiring to this kind of political system, they're in for a shock," he points out.

Mike Ferrigan

Mike Ferrigan: sending a message

At least one of the councillors who did win a seat in Professor Pongoo's ward, Labour's Ricky Henderson, told MSN the message has been taken on board. His group is in talks to build a "coalition of all parties" to end the divisive bickering that has put off voters, he said.

But Professor Pongoo's not convinced: "It's very had to get politicians to change their mindset," he says.

As for what comes next, Mr Ferrigan, who has campaigned for Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Scottish Greens and the Occupy movement, is still not sure: "I may have a career as Professor Pongoo but right now I'm knackered from my campaign and walking the streets."

In addition, his application to have funding for his climate change campaign in schools has been rejected by the Scottish Parliament, he says because his message about the unsustainability of the capitalist world is threatening to them.

Professor Pongoo on his home planet

Professor Pongoo shared these pictures of him and his friends from his home planet