Election 2010: The sillier options
Who's for the compulsory serving of asparagus at breakfast?
With the UK general election upon us, the chances are that you have already decided how to vote. But if – like almost 40 per cent of the electorate, according to some current polls – you still haven’t made up your mind, here are a few more tools to help you decide.
We have already looked in some detail at the manifestos of the "serious" contenders for office. Some readers may still be sceptical of the credentials of parties that advocate Wi-Fi enabled chain gangs for criminals (BNP) or even the absurd notion that the UK still requires a non-compulsory identity card and national identity register (Labour). However, the following are some of what are regarded by the establishment as being at the sillier end of UK politics.
First up, the Pirate Party. Despite their roguish title, their manifesto focuses very seriously on three important areas: copyright and patent law, privacy law and freedom of speech. They want a much more balanced "fair use" approach to copyright – and they demand a return to individual privacy and free speech which they believe has been eroded under New Labour. How exceptionally (un)silly of them!
Mebyon Kernow is all about Cornish rights. We can’t find a manifesto but their core values suggest an approach not altogether dissimilar from that of Plaid Cymru – putting Cornwall first, and instituting policies based on local knowledge, rather than the view from London: a bit worthy and not very silly at all.
Another party that sounds as though it ought to be silly, but isn’t, is the English Democrat party. With 108 claimed candidates in the coming election, they are a relatively credible force. Their manifesto focuses mostly on the case for splitting out English matters from the Westminster parliament and dealing with them in an English one. Whether this is enough to solve our current economic woes is doubtful – but it is interesting.
Following recent fallings-out between government and experts, the Science Party might be just what the UK needs, given their commitment to investing in "research and in the creativity of our scientists and engineers". However, they then quite spoil their chances of being taken seriously with the ludicrous demand that "school pupils need to be able to study biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, taught by specialist teachers with a relevant degree". Ridiculous!
With their aim of taking "the cynicism out of British politics, by taking the politicians out of your everyday life", it is possible that the Libertarian party might appeal to some readers. When it comes to silliness, however, the Libertarian Party quite fails to meet the required standard. Their manifesto has received a good deal of serious thought, contains sensible demands for the removal of DNA from the DNA database, and the scrapping of the NIR – and at 39 pages is just too long to be taken spuriously.
Sadly, for those wishing to encourage the silly tendency in UK politics, the Natural Law party is not standing in the 2010 election. The days of entrusting the defence of the realm to trained cadres of yogic flyers are therefore at an end.
What's that? Coming over the hill?
True silliness must therefore be left to the Monster Raving Loony Party (MRLP). Among policies likely to warm the heart of any incoming Home Secretary are proposals to outlaw the wearing of beards by terrorists (on the grounds it makes them look scary) and the institution of a separate terrorist passport for terrorists. We also liked their proposal for an official inquiry to find out if: "(a). Things are really that Bad and (b). They are out to get you."
Ironically, though, it is often in the fine print of the "silly" manifestoes that future policies – too radical to be contemplated by the mainstream - are to be found. The MRLP has blotted its copybook in the past by flying such outlandish ideas as passports for pets, lowering the voting age to 18 and all day pub opening. They were also instrumental in the demise of David Owen’s even sillier "continuity SDP" at the Bootle by-election in 1990.
As for what each party needs to do to win, a hung parliament remains favourite with the bookies. However, the vagaries of the first-past-the-post electoral system mean that the shape of the next parliament is still very difficult to call.
If you wish to play at being Jeremy Vine for the night, the BBC provides a handy do-it-yourself swingometer which will enable you to see what the outcome might be according to vote share. Don’t expect the actual outcome to be as clearcut as this model suggests, since individual constituency results are well able to buck the trend.
Bear in mind also that there have been boundary changes in England and Wales – but not Scotland – since the last election, which mostly favour the Tories. One credible analysis of the seats suggests that had the last election been fought on the current boundaries, Labour would still have won – but with an overall majority of just 36, as opposed to the 64 they actually managed.