Do you stay up nights worrying that the British have lost their sense of humor? Put those fears to rest, folks, because it’s alive and well and utterly bizarre. Let’s start (and mostly stay) with the political landscape. What other country boasts an Official Monster Raving Loony Party, a Church of the Militant Elvis Party, and a yogic flying party (which isn’t its official name and the party doesn’t think it’s funny, but we’ll get to that)?
Let’s start with the Monster Raving Loony Party, which was founded by Screaming Lord Sutch and someone with a less interesting name so never mind him. Sutch ran in 41 elections as a candidate for various parties. One of the early ones was the Go to Blazes Party, but then he perfected the art of party-naming and remained a Monster Raving Loony for the rest of his life. The highest number of votes he ever got was 1,114. He’s now gone to that great election campaign in the sky, where I’m sure he’s getting all the votes he deserves (I have no idea how many that would be), and the current leader is Howling Laud Hope.
The party’s policies include fitting air bags to the stock exchange in preparation for the next crash and marking any puddle deeper than 3 inches with a yellow plastic duck. I can’t find it on their web site, probably because I didn’t look closely enough, but I read somewhere else that they want to address global warming by fitting air conditioners to the outside of buildings.
Folks, this is what the world needs: A realistic approach to global warming and the instability of the economy. With yellow plastic ducks.
I can’t explain why the party’s made Official part of its name. Did someone start an unofficial one? Was there a split, with both sides accusing each other of not being true to the party’s principles? Did some part of the membership hold that only puddles deeper than six inches needed to be marked with plastic ducks, or that the ducks didn’t need to be yellow? Until someone goes to a convention and reports back (or on a lower level of commitment, contacts them and asks), the mystery will remain. If I had a shred of respect for myself as a journalist, I’d do email them, but the truth is that I’m no journalist.
Remind me: What do you get out of reading this blog?
Moving on, the Church of the Militant Elvis Party is led by David Bishop, whose name can’t compete with the leaders of the Monster Raving Loony Party. Maybe that’s why he’s also registered several Elvis-themed campaign groups, including the Bus-pass Elvis Party, the Elvis Defence League, and the Elvis and the Yeti Himalayan Preservation Party. I’m not sure what the difference is, in this context, between a political party and a campaign group, and I seriously doubt it matters.
In 2005, the party ran a candidate in Erewash, which is a real place and, sadly, not pronounced Earwash. Based on the usual Google search I do when something’s this earthshaking (hey, I go all out for this blog), I learned that “most people” around there pronounce it Errywash—like ferrywash, but without the F.
I didn’t find any mention of how not-most people around there pronounce it, but it does make a person wonder.
The same search taught me that I can get the wax micro-suctioned out of my ear for just £25—or £35 if I’d rather have it done in the privacy of my own home, because I might feel a little, you know, private about my ears, even though I do walk around with them hanging out for all the world to see. Whoever’s offering that price doesn’t know where I live or they’d charge more.
I’m not usually followed around the internet by earwax ads, so I couldn’t help wondering if the great googlemaster thinks I don’t know how to spell ear or if the great googlemaster just has a sense of humor.
But we were talking about the Church of the Militant Elvis Party. Bishop ran on a promise to (among other things) go to the North Pole and yell at the icebergs to stop melting. He campaigned in a red cat suit, claimed he was heckled—I can’t think why—and got 116 votes. In 2010, his platform included digging moats around houses. No, he didn’t volunteer to dig them. It’s only by following the implications of his campaign promise that I got to the verb dig, and I may be assuming too much. What I read actually said he wanted to introduce them. House, meet moat. Moat, meet house.
Job done. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and it keeps the campaign promise.
Finally we come to the Natural Law Party, which grew out of the transcendental meditation organization. If I remember correctly, some decades ago they trademarked their name and insisted that it be spelled with initial caps and followed by the letters TM, not because that’s an abbreviation of transcendental meditation but to mark that the name was trademarked. I was working as an editor at the time and I wrestled bare-handed with issues of this sort on a daily basis. And lived to tell the tale. So what could I say but, “Oh, yeah? How you gonna make me?”
I said that to myself, mind you, since no one else cared. But that sort of thing mattered to me. And it still does—enough for me to lower case the organization’s name even though capping it would make sense. It is an organization. That is its name. Names are capitalized. But hey, if it matters that much to them, I’m happy to do the opposite.
It’s a good thing I’m writing about political parties instead of running for office. Power goes right to my head.
The Natural Law Party seems to take itself seriously. As well it should. According to the BBC article I linked to just above, “It promised in 1997 to create an ‘ideal quality of life – prosperity, creativity and happiness [for all]’, crime would be reduced by creating coherence in national consciousness, and defence would depend on an integrated national consciousness to make Britain invincible.”
The logic of that sounds as shaky as the grammar, but apparently that would all happen through meditation and yogic flying.
“Yogic what???” you ask.
Why yogic flying, silly, which if you watch the video you’ll learn consists of bouncing around on a mattress with your legs pretzeled across each other like the Buddha’s.
I’m not an expert on the Buddha, but I’m quite sure he didn’t bounce around on a mattress. I don’t think anyone had gotten around to inventing bouncy mattresses back then.
When the Natural Law Party withdrew from the electoral process, it blamed the negativity and cynicism of the electorate. The BBC kinda thought it might have had something to do with how much money it cost them to run each campaign. But hey, that’s cynicism for you.
Enough politics. A final note, to prove the British sense of humor extends from politics into real life: I took a load of brush clippings to the dump the other day (that’s the tip if you’re British), and a guy who worked there helped me empty the car. They do that there if they have the time. It’s very nice, and they’re very nice, and even I managed to be nice. After we’d tossed the last bits of greenery, I found a snail in the back seat.
“Want a snail?” I said for no reason I can quite explain, although I’ll offer a few alternatives. Pick the one you like: It was there. Thanks didn’t seem like enough and I hadn’t thought to bring brownies. I’m a wise-ass and my mouth doesn’t always consult my brain.
“Thanks,” he said after only the smallest hint of hesitation, “but I’m trying to give them up.”
While we’re (marginally) on the subject of thanks, I owe many of them to—argh: someone for suggesting this topic, sending me a couple of initial links, and telling me about the Church of the Militant Elvis Party, thereby enriching my life significantly. (I already knew a bit about the other two but hadn’t thought of writing about them.) We exchanged several comments and I enjoyed the conversation. You’d think I’d know who it was, wouldn’t you? It’s really rude not to remember but I thought (a) that wouldn’t happen and (b) if it did (I know what my memory’s like and I never completely trust it) I could just pick it up from the comments section.
Yes, indeed I could, but which post were we exchanging comments at the end of? None of the ones I checked, and I zipped through a lot of them. So whoever you are, forgive me. And let me know who you are. Please. I’d meant to post a link to your blog, if only I’d been bright enough to leave myself a trail of virtual breadcrumbs, and I can still do that in a follow-up post.
Finally, if anyone wants to push me in the direction of a topic, please do. I don’t promise to write about it–some topics work for me and some just don’t, and I still haven’t found a way to predict which ones will set me going. But I love getting suggestions. It’s the Comments section that makes this so much fun to write.