News from the fringes of Britain’s election: a midweek bonus post

Elections are serious business, and this one is especially serious, so let’s take you on a tour of its crazier fringes. 

The most important fringe is unraveling in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, a London suburb where Boris Johnson, also known as Britain’s prime minister, is trying to keep his seat in parliament. At the last election, his majority was small–in the neighborhood of 5,000 votes. If he loses his seat but his party wins a majority in the Commons, it will have to find itself a new leader, he’ll have to find himself a new hobby, and the new leader will be the new prime minister. 

Johnson’s most serious challenge is from Labour, so we’ll skip that. We’ll also skip the Liberal Democrat, the Green Party candidate, and anyone else we’d have to take seriously.

The most interesting challenges come from Count Binface and Lord Buckethead. We’re looking at a particularly bitter fight there, because Count Binface used to be Lord Buckethead but had an unpleasant set-to on, as he put it, planet Copyright and had to reincarnate as Count Binface.  

Are you keeping up with this?

Neither am I. Lord Buckethead was–or, I guess, still is–a character in a 1984 movie, Hyperspace, that no one ever saw.  Or so says one newspaper. Another says he was a character in a 1980s Gremloids, another movie that no one ever saw.

Do we care which movie it was? No. Here at Notes, we’re completely nondenominational about bad movies. All we care about is that a comedian, Jon Harvey, appropriated the character.

Buckethead likes to run against prime ministers. He’s run against Theresa May, David Cameron, John Major, and Margaret Thatcher. I believe someone else was being Buckethead part that time, but do we really care about that? Probably not. 

This business of popping around the country to run against prime ministers is made possible by an election law that doesn’t demand that candidates live in the areas they hope to represent.   

The law also doesn’t make candidates use their real names in elections, and that’s a gift to those of us whose spirits need lifting in these dismal times. It doesn’t even make them define real. All they have to do is file papers and pay money. 

So the man who used to be Lord Buckethead is now running as Count Binface, but someone else is running–also in Uxbridge and et cetera–as Lord Buckethead. Count B. has said he looks forward to a “receptacle to receptacle debate” with him.

As Count B. (writing on Twitter as @CountBinface) explained, “At a time when political precedent is being broken all over the place, I find myself effectively standing against not just (current) Prime Minister @BorisJohnson but also myself. I think that’s a first.”

In a separate tweet, he explained that he’d renounced his peerage because in an earlier campaign he’d promised to abolish the House of Lords. 

The current Lord Buckethead is running on the Monster Raving Loony Party ticket.

Guys, I don’t make this stuff up. I only wish I had the sort of mind that could.

Another candidate running against Boris Johnson in Uxbridge and Wherever is William Tobin, who announced that he doesn’t want anyone’s vote, he’s only running because as a long-term British resident in the European Union he’s no longer eligible to vote, although he is eligible to run for office. He wants to raise the profile of 7 million disenfranchised voters who will be affected by Brexit but get no say in British politics. 

I haven’t confirmed that number. Can we agree that there are a lot of them, though?

Enough for Uxbridge and So Forth. In other constituencies, the most interesting fringes I’ve found belong to the Monster Raving Loony Party, whose candidates include: the Incredible Flying Brick, Earl Elvis of Outwell, Howling Laud Hope, Citizen Skwith, and the Baron and the Dame, who must have found a way to run jointly, because they’re quite clearly two people. I struggle to recognize people, but even I can manage to tell them apart: One’s shorter and the other has a long, scraggly beard. They’re both male. One of them being called the Dame is a British thing and has to do with pantos, which are–oh, never mind. It’s too complicated to explain in a short space but but it’s not about trannies or queens. It’s a recognized theatrical form, and a strange one. 

The Monster Raving Loony manifesto includes a proposal to “reduce the national debt by selling the castles back to the French. (Buyer dismantles.)” 

Wish us luck, world. We need it right now.

The war on imaginary drugs, U.K. style

What catches a politician’s attention even more than drugs? Why, the chance to appear in public pontificating about drugs, that’s what. And that’s how a Member of Parliament got scammed into publicly condemning an imaginary drug.

You can’t make this stuff up. Or—well, yes, somebody did, but I couldn’t. The best I can do is look on in amazement. The human imagination is endless. Not to mention bizarre.

Back in 1997, David Amess, a Conservative MP representing Basildon, filmed a video condemning a drug called Cake. Which does not now and never has existed. That left him so impressed with his own expertise that he got up in Parliament to ask what the government planned to do about the stuff.

Irrelevant Photo: Sometimes I feel like I'm being watched. That's Moose on the left and Minnie the Moocher on the right. And no, they can't come in.

Irrelevant Photo: Sometimes I feel like I’m being watched. That’s Moose on the left and Minnie the Moocher on the right. And no, they can’t come in.

Cake was invented—if an imaginary substance can be invented—by a TV show, Brass Eye, which among other things satirized moral panics. You made your point there, folks. It doesn’t take much to start one. The drug was also supposed to give users a bloated neck because they retained water and to distort the user’s perception of time by affecting a part of the brain called Shatner’s bassoon. Now, at that point some of us might feel a slight tug on one leg and think, Someone’s pulling that. We might do a bit of research or plug Shatner’s bassoon into Google or, y’know, ask a relative or neighbor who has some first- (or at least third-) hand knowledge of drugs if they’d ever heard of the stuff. But not the intrepid (I think that should technically be the Hono[u]rable) Mr. Amess. He just got up and condemned it as “a big yellow death bullet” and he mentioned that unhappy users were called custard gannets.

Excuse me for a minute. I’m laughing too hard to type. Custard gannets? Can’t you imagine the scene in the Brass Eye writers’ room where someone says, “Let’s call them custard gannets,” and the only sensible (or at least momentarily sober) person in the room says, “Oh, come on, you can’t call them that. Nobody’ll believe it.” But then the sensible person goes out for a cup of tea or—who knows—a shot of much-needed vodka and they quick put it to a vote and custard gannet it is. And poor Mr. Amess not only believes it, he talks about them on video and in the House of Commons.

Of such stuff are great political careers made.

His great moment came in October 2015 (which is why this admittedly old story re-surfaced), when he has appointed to co-chair a committee to shape the government’s new drug policy—the Bill Committee on Psychoactive Drugs. The bill they were considering has since passed and is expected to be signed by the Queen—also, I’m sure, an expert on drugs—in April. It makes formerly legal highs illegal and has been much criticized for being too broad. The substances that will become illegal include including laughing gas and poppers, and one brave soul got up in the House of Lords to say he uses poppers, which have a reputation for giving the user a sexual rush. A fair number of gay men do use them. I’m not sure how many, but enough that even I know about them, and being female and all I don’t hang out where I assume they’re used. For all I know even—gasp, wheeze—straight people use them. I also have no idea what, if anything, they do for women. Remember, I’m 603 years old and can’t be expected to do first-hand research on the subject. If you want to find out, you’ll have to do your own. What I can say is that sexual chemistry works differently in women than in men, as the makers of Viagra could explain. They’d have a second profitable drug if only it were that simple. So I’m guessing they don’t do much for women, but if I’m wrong do let me know.

Where were we?

The bill is so broad that according to the Independent it may accidentally ban marker pens, some glues, pheromone products, and lots of other fun stuff. It has to specifically exclude a few safe psychoactive substances like alcohol, and tobacco. And caffeine. Mind you, I won’t quibble about excluding caffeine. It’s not good for you but I know for a fact that it’s good for me, especially first thing in the morning, and it needs to stay legal. I don’t like breaking laws before noon. But proving that alcohol or tobacco do less damage than poppers or laughing gas—or cake—is going to take some fancy footwork.

So there you have it. Another great moment in politics. My thanks to P., who sent me the links. Without his high-minded civic action I’d have lived out the rest of my days not knowing how easy it is to start a moral panic. And how much fun.

An update on political absurdity

This British American Life has a funnier example of American political absurdity than the one I sent out a little while ago. Follow the link to learn about the paperwork you have to submit if you want to be reimbursed for going to the moon. Because you can never tell when you might need to know that.

And while we’re talking about absurdity, don’t you just love that I provided a link back to my own post, even though I said wasn’t as funny? Anybody want to place bets on how many people will follow it?