Preposterous politics: why we should expect the unexpected in political candidates

Alan 'Howling Laud' Hope, leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party
Image credit: Acabashi

It is truly a glorious time to be alive when the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom loses 371 votes in a constituency she has represented since 1997 to Lord Buckethead of the Gremloids party, Howling Laud Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party and Bobby Smith of the Give Me Back Elmo party. The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, also lost 309 votes to a Mr Fish Finger; a candidate whose aim to gain the Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency was sparked by the results of an informal Twitter poll revealing that, by a margin of over 90%, that people trusted a fish finger to lead them more than Farron.

These candidates are by no means the first farcical representatives, but, in an election brimming with surprises, they seemed to gain more attention than usual this year. It was a spectacular sight to see powerful politicians quaking in their boots next to a long line of various quirkily-dressed figures, human or otherwise, in the early hours of Friday morning; you could be forgiven for thinking you were dreaming at the spectacle.

The majority of these parties stand for political satire purposes only, with an aim perhaps of only regaining their £500 deposit (a method established in 1985 in an attempt to deter such ridiculous candidates from standing), which is returned if they receive over 5% of total votes cast. The Monster Raving Loony Party, established in 1983, is frequently quoted as being the most prominent reason for such a policy, though it is also claimed that this was an endeavour to try to cut the number of candidates contesting seats which, at the time, was increasingly rapidly every election.  Yet, either way, this strategy dismally failed, and frivolous candidates became a frequent sight at elections.

The Monster Raving Loony Party is still the most famous, and visible, of these candidates; occupying a political position of ‘sitting, facing forward’, and offering itself as an alternative for protest voters.  Despite these passive ambitions, its ‘Manicfesto’ is comprehensive, containing a multitude of outlandish policy proposals such as:

  • Cat crossings at all major roads (a suggestion sparked by the death of the feline joint-leader of the party, Catmando, as a result of a road-traffic accident in 2002)
  • The painting of half of the grey squirrels red to increase the red squirrel population
  • Punching holes into the roof of the channel tunnel to create a mega-carwash
  • Puddles deeper than 3 inches will be marked by a yellow plastic duck
  • A cutting of the letters of the alphabet, starting with N, H, and S
  • A replacement of the Trident missile with a three-pronged fork

Though these ideas seem unique in their preposterousness, such ridiculous propositions are matched by other absurd parties, such as Mr Fish Finger’s aims to have ‘no more foreign fish in our fingers’; and Lord Buckethead’s suggestions that Ceefax should be brought back, Katie Hopkins should be exiled to the Phantom Zone, and Birmingham should be demolished to make way for a spaceport.

Bobby Smith, of the Give Me Back Elmo party, however, is a different case. Smith’s party is a protesting campaign to reform family law after his own experiences of discrimination against fathers in the family courts which, since 2010, has left him unable to have regular contact with his children. Since that judgement, Smith has campaigned for a change in the law so that no parent who is fit and willing should ever be denied their right to share equally in the lives of their own children; his adoption of the name Elmo was the product of merging of his daughters’ names together. Though Smith has acknowledged that he thinks “it’s too late” for his own situation to change, he asserted that he doesn’t “want to sit back and see other people go through it” too, hence his establishment of a political party to raise awareness of the issue. Suddenly the frivolous parties do not seem as absurd; they are, instead, attempts to draw attention to deeper injustices.

Yet this overlap between the serious and ridiculous in politics is, of course, not just limited to such satirical parties. The reality of political affairs is inherently nonsensical: candidates with questionable histories stand for seats, serious representatives also promote absurd suggestions of policy, and surprises can be expected both within the election process and outside it.

Though, alas, only time will tell if, in fact, the serious political parties of today gain a reputation of ludicrosity equalling that of the more frivolous associations. 

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