While some may argue that Nigel Farage’s challenges lie with the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and technically even the Greens, a new, unexpected challenge comes from none other than the Pub Landlord himself, Al Murray.
January 14 saw the formation of the ‘Free United Kingdom Party’ (FUKP) by Murray and a declaration that he would be standing in South Thanet, the very same constituency Farage is standing for. A video titled ‘The Guv’s common sense message to the UK’ has been posted on YouTube to lay out Murray’s pledges.
Should he be successful, Al Murray, within the Pub Landlord persona, may encounter one slight problem: ‘like many of the parliamentary hopefuls in the forthcoming election, I have no idea where South Thanet is.’ Al Murray expresses general apathy for the exemplar reasons for standing, saying that he would not wish to run for the sake of appealing to the electorate but rather because the political system is damaged. Murray instead simply pledges for pints for a penny: ‘Common sense policies for common sense people’.
The clip is clearly a spoof of modern day politics, but Murray’s standing by all accounts appears to be real. He will be standing against Farage in South Thanet. UKIP welcomed the news with one spokesman saying that Murray was the first sign of ‘serious competition’ for the constituency, whilst Farage himself said “the more the merrier”.
Perhaps due to the fear of undermining the democratic procedure, the other candidates standing have expressed approval for Murray’s entry into the election. Labour have said that they’re confident it won’t divide the vote to the advantage of Farage. It’s difficult to tell to what extent that may be true. I would however, enjoy it, if many misunderstood the subtext and the UKIP vote were to divide.
That result may be possible though. Not for those who misunderstood the subtext, but those that do who may have their politics swayed by Murray towards a more central party. The reasoning for this is that people may begin a deeper understanding of the policies and the appeal that UKIP are trying to capitalise on and how they are to an appeal to those thinking in the short-term. I wouldn’t wish to generalise UKIP voters as naïve; as many naïve voters will go for UKIP as any other party. However, UKIP haven’t actually been exposed to sharp satire to any significant extent, much less so than the other parties, especially its’ leaders. Murray captures Farage’s persona very well and provides some decent food for thought.
The idea of a comedian running for parliament when not apparently obviously interested in politics does raise a question as to the feelings of the electorate regarding either the government or current political structures. Murray conveys his running as not particularly serious in character, though serious in intent. In his reference to tactical voting, voting more to stop specific other parties get in, he also digs into the negative energy which is now emanating from Westminster week in and week out.
Will Murray be successful in his attempt? He may be more successful in the entertainment business as a result but it’s difficult to believe he’ll become an MP this year. If he were generally interested however, he at least has shown the public a platform whereby one can stand and even set up their own party, which though minor, could indeed be liberating the many who don’t feel integrated into the main contemporary political strands.