The battle for Number 10 may be a straight duel between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, but across the land there a number of lesser-known characters getting involved in the general election as parliamentary candidates.
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party is still going strong with 15 candidates standing for the Commons. Also taking part in the election are representatives from the Women’s Equality, Christian People’s Alliance, the Animal Welfare Party, the National Health Action Party, Workers Revolutionary Party, the Libertarian Party. And more…
THE WILD MEN OF UKIP
So much for the idea that Ukip only cares about slashing immigration and international aid. Among the Ukip candidates standing in this election are Aidan Powlesland, who has pledged to invest more than £1 billion in the asteroid mining industry if he wins in South Suffolk. His election literature states that Powlesland wants to set aside £100 million for “an interstellar colony ship design” and to award a £1 billion prize to any private company that can mine the asteroid belt by 2026”.
Over in Nottingham East, his Ukip colleague Robert Hall-Palmer has a slightly smaller-scale plans. The veteran owner of several carparks has used an election leaflet to set out how he would overhaul the Robin Hood statue in the city centre. He states: “I would remove the upper bronze half and replace it with steel to complete and balance the statue. This is the sort of common sense I would apply all problems in the constituency to bring improvement.”
MR CAN’T MAKE HIS MIND UP
Mike Scott-Hayward is fighting the seat of North east Fife for the fifth time, and in his fourth guise. Having previously stood for the Tories, Ukip and as an independent this time out he’s going under the banner of the Independent Sovereign Democratic Britain party.
“Why can’t we have independent, free-thinking candidates in British politics?” he asks. “The best way to air things is to have your own manifesto, argue them in a general election and you might even get to talk about them in the House of Commons.”
Mike quit the Tories when they failed to commit to restoring Scotland’s army battalions and he reckons his old party Ukip is now weak on defence. His Facebook page is adorned with a picture of HMS Vanguard, Britain’s last battleship.
“I’m not really clear about Ukip’s defence policy at the moment. Under Paul Nuttall they don’t seem as firm and strong on the nuclear deterrent. With Kim Jong Un poncing around the place I think it’s best we keep our nuclear deterrent,” he says.
Former soldier and lifelong Eurosceptic Mike wants the UK to reject dictats from supra national bodies and doing as it likes. What’s the difference between his programme and that of Ukip? “Mine’s more eloquent!” he laughs.
The Yorkshire Party is on the cusp of moving from niche to mainstream. They are fielding 21 candidates at this election, including Bikatshi Katengain in Huddersfield.
The mother of three is campaigning for school children to receive the same funding per head as pupils in London. But the centrepiece of the party’s platform is a demand for a Yorkshire-wide parliament or assembly which would lead the way on education and infrastructure in the county.
“We had good local results in May getting an average of 25%. We’ve come a long way in the three years since we were formed because we’ve got something to say that resonates,” states leader Stewart Arnold.
With a population around the same as Scotland’s and only slightly fewer MPs it’s easy to see why the Yorkshire Party looks to Scotland and the SNP for inspiration but it’s Brexit fuelling their growth.
The leader says: “The grievance and discontent in the north was expressed through Brexit but after the referendum you’d hear people say, ‘That’s Brussels sorted, now for Westminster’.
“Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London all have a voice in the Brexit negotiations. Sadiq Khan can speak up for the City of London but one of the biggest financial sectors in the country is in Leeds, who speaks up for that?”
He also insists his party is about a modern vision of the county. “We’re less about nostalgia and Yorkshire for the sake of it, we represent the community that lives in Yorkshire now.”
“We’re the Millwall of politics – no one likes us but we don’t care.” So says Mark Wadsworth of the Young People’s Party. He claims his party’s policies upset the political spectrum. “The lefties hate us because we want to get rid of inheritance tax, the right wing hate us because we want a land value tax,” he explains.
The Young People’s Party core policy is Georgism, a creed Wadsworth claims is as old as the Bible and which is centred on taxing the value of land and scrapping VAT and national insurance. Their slogan is ‘higher wages, lower house prices’.
They are fielding three candidates in Epping Forest, Durham and the City of London – all of whom are well over 30, while party treasurer Wadsworth is 51. He said: “We chose the name to wind up the Daily Mail really. All party names are non-sensical anyway, most people in the UK are liberal and are democrats but not Liberal Democrats.
“Anyone over 50 hates our idea because they bought their houses for 50p in the 80s but chat to 20-year-olds who are priced out of the market and they think it sounds good.”
The party is under no illusions about its prospects but they are proud to stand up for the ideology they believe in. “If we get more than 100 votes that would be a good result,” explained Mark.
Neil Blackburn is standing for the Pirate Party in Manchester Central. But despite having spent much of his working life as a seaman that’s not what drew him to the party.
Sadly for fans of Captain Pugwash and Long John Silver, the Pirate Party does not focus on having swashbuckling adventures on the high seas. Rather, the pirate movement grew out of a Swedish court case centred on the Pirate Bay website and whether it was breaking the law by sharing TV and music.
Since the case pirate parties in Europe have won seats in Sweden, Germany and Iceland. Now the UK version is standing 10 candidates on a platform of reforming the country’s copyright laws and generally shaking up democracy. Its manifesto calls for shorter copyright laws and an end to “warrantless mass surveillance”.
Neil says: “By standing in the election I hope to show others that have felt disengaged with politics like I have that there are other ways to do politics and that such a diverse country as ours needs to change, there are so many that feel their voice isn’t being heard or that they do not have a voice at all. I want to show them you can have a voice, I want to be their voice, and taking part in the democratic process is their right.”
But aren’t people disappointed that he doesn’t campaign in an eye-patch and peg leg? “The party name is interesting enough to break the ice, but not quite as outlandish as the Monster Raving Loonies,” laughs Neil. “So in the end, the name Pirate Party UK works very well for us. In fact, it has turned out to be a really good thing. It opens up debate and brings people to the discussion.”
He’s been in the political wilderness for 20-odd years only to find himself at the centre of attention at this election. That’s not a reference to Jeremy Corbyn but to Lord Buckethead.
He first appeared in lame 80s Star Wars spoof Hyperspace. A few years later he, or someone purporting to be him, arrived on the political scene in 1987 when he stood against Margaret Thatcher. Officials that insisted he remove his helmet at the count were firmly told that it wasn’t a helmet, it was his head.
So why the comeback? He explains: “My starship happened to be passing the Kuiper Belt when I intercepted a large number of Earth communications bemoaning a ‘lack of effective opposition’ in your politics. I am the only figure who has personally stood against two of your Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher (Finchley, 1987) and John Major (Huntingdon, 1992). And so, summoned by your collective national need and my desire to complete a uniquely historic hat-trick I have made my return – to the important intergalactic destination of Maidenhead.”
His policies include a referendum on whether to have a second Brexit referendum, defending full face coverings and bringing back Ceefax. He claims he’s winning voters over. “For many floating voters I find that mind control does the trick. Other people like badges. People go mad for the badges.”
He seems to have downgraded his ambitions from intergalactic conquest though. “I ask anyone who feels uninspired by both main parties in this cynically-called election to join Lord Buckethead in the mother of all protest votes. Together we can defeat UKIP. And that would be a laugh.”
Social media has been a game changer for the niche or downright odd candidates standing at general elections allowing them to reach a wider audience and, crucially, raise cash via crowd funding sites.
For Mr Fish Finger, standing against Tim Farron in Westmorland and Lonsdale, it was a Twitter survey that brought him into being.
He explains: “There was a poll run on Twitter asking who would you trust more Tim Farron or a fish finger? The fish finger polled 92%. So I thought, if a fish finger can do that why not stand as one.”
Having raised enough to cover his deposit (and a costume) Mr Fish Finger is going to the people on a platform of free fishing rods for students, free fish for NHS workers, unfettered migration for fish and a slew of marine puns.
But he claims he’s not just having a laugh. “There is a serious side to my codpaign,” he claims. “I want to help the people of Westmorland and Lonsdale throughout Brexit to ensure they get a fair deal. The amount of support in the codstituency and across the UK has been overwhelking.”