If you’ve wandered around London the last day or two wondering if Polling Place is a novelty pop-up with a really groovy guerrilla monochrome marketing campaign, you’ll be disappointed or excited to learn that no, it’s just your quinquennial opportunity to fulfil your civic duty and vote for one of the lacklustre candidates that politics has thrown at us this cycle.
And there’s an easy answer. Count Binface.
Formerly Lord Buckethead until he renounced his peerage, Count Binface is running on a ticket that promises to rename London Bridge after Phoebe Waller, to bring back Ceefax and to relocate the hand dryer in the gents’ toilet at the Crown & Treaty in Uxbridge to a more sensible position. All laudable policies Londoners can fully get behind.
Binface also comes with some serious policies, like pegging the pay of nurses to that of the mayor (Sadiq currently coins in £152,734) but let’s not assume that the satirical character and creation of comedian Jon Harvey, is a genuine contender for County Hall. But he is the most fun to hit London since Boris departed for bigger things.
Notwithstanding the fact that London voted for Boris as mayor twice, why should you waste your vote on a novelty candidate?
Contrast Binface to Brian Rose, the Wall Street banker who has self-funded a campaign to the tune of millions to carve himself out a reported 1% vote share, and you can see the attraction of having a laugh at least. Lawrence Fox and his bizarre, antivax/anti mask campaign with its dark overtones misses the point of how fringe loonies should work. We want our madmen to be brilliantly bonkers, not scarily suffocating.
Neither Fox nor Rose has proposed reversing London Underground’s escalators to provide a free gym and Gladiators simulator all in one, or preventing shops from selling croissants for more than £1. And maybe if they had they’d have some voters.
So, notwithstanding the fact that London elected Boris twice, why should you waste your vote on a novelty candidate?
Well firstly it’s not wasted. London’s mayoral elections use a form of voting called the supplementary vote system. When you’re in the booth you list the candidates you want to win, and as soon as your first choice doesn’t reach 50% (and Count Binface won’t) your second, ideally more serious, vote is the one that goes forward until there’s two left and the one with the most votes wins. And yes, that paragraph was as boring to write as it was to read.
The problem is that it’s clear that London has a genuinely dull choice to make at today’s election. It’s one of the world’s most important jobs and yet the roster of characters up for the position couldn’t be less inspiring.
Sadiq Khan is almost guaranteed to win, and that’s despite his universally unpopular plans to extend the congestion charge to the South Circular for all but the most expensive cars. Or the hell he’s unleashed on London’s streets, at great taxpayer expense, with bus lane closures, LTNs and road narrowing to ensure that traffic idles, polluting our once crossable streets.
It’s also weird that with hospitality, travel and tourism being such key industries for London his voice has hardly cut through in recent months as the capital opens up again.
Meanwhile the headlines tomorrow are likely to be Tory successes despite, well, everything. But not in London, where Shaun Bailey has made remarkably few ripples. His tough speaking, local-boy-come-good schtick hasn’t resonated and he’s somehow managed to reverse the national trend of Labour-on-the-ropes. It’s telling that Boris’s final campaign video last night was from Hartlepool, which the Conservatives have a chance of winning, and not in support of Bailey as he runs for Boris’s old job.
And the rest of ’em are, well, ‘meh’…
Very few people will vote with any degree of passion today, the array of bland candidates with beige policies, which probably haven’t been communicated to you because hardly anyone has engaged with the process, are simply depressing.
Which is why Count Binface should be your first vote. Just as millions put ‘Jedi’ down as their religion in the last census, it’s a protest and a worthwhile one that says ‘London deserves better’.
Let’s just hope he doesn’t actually win!