Briton contests election seat after winning competition

April 15, 2010

parliamentA drugs campaigner could arguably claim to be the most unusual prospective parliamentary candidate in the general election next month — he is running after winning a competition.

An independent candidate in the southern Bristol West constituency, Danny Kushlick, 47, is championing the People’s Manifesto, which is a very different policy document from  those espoused by Britain’s mainstream political parties, who released their manifestos earlier this week.

While Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats all talk of cutting the record budget deficit, Kushlick is demanding that the right-wing Daily Mail tabloid newspaper print on the front page of every edition: “This is a fictionalized account of the news and any resemblance to the truth is entirely coincidental.”

Left-wing comedian Mark Thomas thought up the win-a-chance-to-stand-for-Parliament competition as a way of promoting his touring stage show the “People’s Manifesto”, which is also a BBC Radio 4 series and a now a book.

Thomas has contributed £1,000 to the Kushlick campaign – proceeds raised from a National Theatre gig in London — while the comedian’s publisher Ebury have stumped up another £1,000 to cover the cost of the drug campaigner’s deposit and expenses.

Thomas picked Kushlick after rejecting any entrant who had mentioned “public service” in their application, though the comedian’s favourite answer to the question “Why do you want to stand as an MP” was “I’m not doing much for the next five years”.

As well as the Daily Mail manifesto pledge, Kushlick’s policy priorities include the legalisation of all drugs, the introduction of a Tobin Tax on foreign financial transactions and a pledge that a referendum should always be held before Britain goes to war.

Oh and not forgetting that that all MPs should have to wear tabards displaying the names and logos of the companies with whom they have a financial relationship.

“Winning is not an option,” Kushlick told Reuters. “My job here is to raise issues that the mainstream parties won’t. It’s not only about making people think, it’s about making them laugh, because let’s face it elections can be pretty dour.”

If humour is integral to the Kushlick campaign, there is also a serious side to his decision to stand. He feels strongly that politicians have become too  cocooned in the “Westminster village” and believes that the Freedom of Information Act isn’t working.

“We have tried to access documents about how well drugs policy is working – we can’t get them. Or if you can it takes two years to get a look at the documents and by then policy is done and dusted.”

Kushlick might have written off his electoral chances campaign, but within a week he has already attracted nearly 1,500 Facebook followers, while he has also been accused of “screwing up” the vote of the Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams, who currently holds the Bristol West seat.

“I’m here to ruffle some feathers and get people involved,” added Kushlick, who is head of external affairs at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a charitable think tank that seeks to draw public attention to the dangers of drug prohibition and the need for “effective, just and humane government control and regulation”.

“This campaign is primarily about getting people involved in political discourse because a lot of them have copped out,” he said.

“People are voting with their feet and staying at home. People feel they have no power and no voice and that is dangerous because it allows organisations like the far-right British National Party to play on those fears disenfranchisement.”

While the mainstream parties’ run well-oiled election machines, deploying campaign workers to knock on doors to get voters out, with party leaders arriving in their battle buses to offer their support, Kushlick is very much a one-man band.

“I hope to take part in a husting this Sunday with the mainstream parties – if I’m invited,” said Kushlick, who does have one campaign engagement confirmed on April 20 when he is due to attend an event at a Bristol comedy club, with Thomas expected to attend.

“I’m not sure if I will be knocking on doors,” added Kushlick, who has yet to decide whether he is going to vote for himself. “We will hand out some leaflets and we might pull some stunts.”

One comment

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He sounds almost certain to become a victim of the Law of Unintended Consequences. A moment’s thought is enough to realise that treating something as serious as a general election in such a frivolous way, while entertaining, is guaranteed to decrease the public’s engagement, not to increase it.

There is of course, nothing wrong with a candidate standing solely for the sake of entertainment, as the MRLWHP have always done. But doing it in order to promote a tour (and presumably a DVD or book) while pretending that you’re doing it to increase engagement with the political process? That makes pampering one’s ducks on expenses look relatively tame….

Posted by IanKemmish | Report as abusive