“It’s election fever!” yells Captain Beany, the bright orange superhero hoping to be Britain’s first elected baked bean.
With British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s governing Labour Party looking set for a third straight comfortable victory and fears of widespread voter apathy on Thursday, for many, the general election campaign has been downright dull.
But clad in a cape with “laser X-ray specs” on his bean-like bald orange head, the man once voted Britain’s fourth-best eccentric is putting a stop to all that by standing for Parliament.
Baked beans — a tinned concoction of cooked flageolet beans in a thin tomato sauce, beloved by generations of Britons — are what oddball Captain Beany is all about, notably their reputation for inducing flatulence.
Beany says he has smelled enough hot air from mainstream politicians, and is out to blow a “wind of change” through British politics.
Apart from his New Millennium Bean Party, a wealth of curious characters — from the Dungeons, Death and Taxes Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis — are running for election.
Virtually all have zero hope of winning the 5% of votes needed to retain the £500 deposit demanded of election candidates, a fee intended to put off the likes of bright orange baked beans from standing.
“They say free democracy, but democracy pays, I’m afraid,” Beany said.
“But that’s not going to stop people like myself. Whoopee, let’s get everyone going!” he cried.
“You get too much of it down your throat, blah, blah, blah. People are so bored with politicians spouting the same stuff,” the candidate for the Welsh constituency of Cardiff Central said. “It’s great having offbeat political parties.”
Beany’s manifesto is easily digestible. He vows to keep beans on toast in every Cardiff café, perform daily bean quality checks and remain “incredibly orange”.
And Britain beware — Beany has kicked up a political stink before. He once polled more than the Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third-biggest party.
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party, led by Alan “Howling Lord” Hope, are the godfathers of barmy fringe politics in Britain.
“I get a real sense of fun out of it,” long-standing Loony Hope said from party headquarters — a bar. “I’m probably the most professional politician in this area!”
The Loony “manicfesto” (under the slogan “Vote for insanity — you know it makes sense!”) pledges to introduce a 99-pence coin to save on change, scrap the unpopular number 13 and reduce school class sizes by moving desks closer together. Anyone caught breaking the law will be made to mend it.
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party has been fielding candidates in general elections for more than 20 years.
Now-deceased leader “Screaming” Lord Sutch pioneered joke candidacies, standing for Parliament more than 40 times, only once breaching the 1 000-vote barrier.
Behind the madcap antics and policies, Beany and Hope insist there is something endearingly British about it all, and believe they are making a stand for British democracy.
“It’s to wind up mainstream politics. This is what this country holds dear: true democracy. Anybody from the street upwards can have a go,” Beany said.
“Teenagers won’t vote for me,” said Hope. “It’s those who have seen it all before, heard it all before — and still don’t believe it.
“The serious point is poking fun at politics and getting things changed in our own way.
“We were the first party to suggest, way back in 1964, all-day pub opening [and] votes for 18-year-olds. And 15 years ago, everybody guffawed when we said, ‘What about passports for pets?’ Now they’re doing it.” — AFP