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A sign for a polling station in Westminster ahead of the UK general election, in London, on July 2, 2024. The crop of eccentrics running in Thursday’s vote includes an AI chatbot, an actual pub and an intergalactic space lord. Image Credit: Bloomberg

LONDON: Every general election, the UK sees a handful of novelty candidates who often succeed in blurring the lines between politics and satire.

The crop of eccentrics running in Thursday’s vote includes an AI chatbot, an actual pub and an intergalactic space lord.

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The tradition took off in the 1980s, when the Official Monster Raving Loony Party - motto “Vote for Insanity” - registered as a political party and fielded two candidates.

All a candidate needs to stand to become a member of parliament is a £500 ($632) deposit and 10 supporting signatures.

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“There’s aspects of this that has to do with the UK sense of humour and our traditions of satire and mockery,” Andrew Blick, politics professor at King’s College London, told AFP.

But he said politics may have become “in some senses more ridiculous” in recent years, making it “ripe for satire”.

“I think they do have some value: they attract attention to the system, some of the issues they raise, though they do it in a humorous way, are serious issues,” he added.

Sometimes, the joke works: the furry mascot of Hartlepool football club, H’Angus the Monkey, actually won the town’s 2002 mayoral contest. All-day pub opening - now a reality - was once merely a Loony policy.

Count Binface

Count Binface, the “intergalactic space warrior” is running against Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in headgear shaped like a rubbish bin.

His pledges include building at least “one affordable home” and national service for all former prime ministers.

He has also proposed nationalising the singer Adele.

Binface - aka comedian Jon Harvey - ran against Boris Johnson in the 2019 general election and in London’s mayoral race this year, when he beat the far-right Britain First party by 4,000 votes.

“In the UK anybody, literally anybody, is free to stand in an election, no matter how idiotic the get-up”, he told AFP.

He added that the British political system “fosters the eccentricity, the wonderment and the humour of politics”.

The Mitre pub

A “good old fashioned” pub in Richmond in south London has been registered as a political party as part of a marketing stunt by its owner, Chris French, who is its only candidate.

“Just about the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” French said of the process of registering the pub as a party. “I just typed ‘how to register as a political party’ into Google.”

With his pub slowly recovering after the Covid pandemic and feeling the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis, French looked to the democratic process for its untapped marketing potential rather than its ability to effect policy change.

For £500 — a snip compared to the price of online marketing — he could have his pub name and address “advertised” on the ballot paper seen by the 77,000 people over the age of 18 in his local area.

His only aim? “I’d like to not come last. But if I do beat any political parties — I’m a pub without a manifesto — they should probably quit politics,” he added.

Steve AI

Steve AI claims to be the country’s first artificial intelligence candidate and will appear on the ballot in Brighton Pavilion in southeast England as an independent.

The physical face of the campaign is its creator Steve Endacott, with the AI platform promising to be an MP you can talk to “anytime, anywhere”.

Its policies, which are created and approved by locals according to the website, include expanding prison capacity and improving cycling in the area.

On issues such as immigration and climate, Steve AI is generally left-leaning, including supporting “practical” climate policy and “inviting those we need to support the economy”.

Steve AI told AFP it was running “to make a difference” and one of its strengths was that it would not be “swayed by emotions or special interests.”

But it then glitched as it tried to explain the advantages of technology.