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Recently, George Galloway won the Parliamentary by-elections for the constituency of Rochdale. In his otherwise-solemn speech following the announcement of the results, there are a few colorful characters in the background, with high or extremely-high top hats, with large ornaments pasted onto those top hats, one having a collage-like jackets, and one of them seemingly a ventriloquist, with his doll sticking out behind Galloway.

What gives? Are these other candidates? A group of political activists/protesters making a statement via their costumes?

enter image description here

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    'constituency' is the term I believe. (am not from UK tho)
    – Pete W
    Mar 8 at 20:15
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    The dummy and the largest top hat in the back are clearly from the MRLP. In the video, you can see that the ribbons say "vote Looney". The man with the bespectacled top hat is the Rochdale MRLP front-runner Ravin Rodent Subortna. You can view the list of candidates (and click their names for a bio) here: rochdaleonline.co.uk/news-features/elections/election-summary/… Mar 9 at 5:11
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    Just as a FYI for people outside the UK, the by-election came about because of the death of the residing Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd MP, and George Galloway is now the member of the parliament for Rochdale. The UK general election is scheduled for May 2024 and, as I understand it, George Galloway MP will have to stand again then. Mar 11 at 19:02
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    @NoelWhitemore: Thanks for the clarification and added the "by" before "elections". It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Galloway repeats his victory.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 11 at 20:03
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    See this article for another example of satirical candidates in the UK political landscape. In this case, it is Count Binface, who managed to come ahead of the extreme rightwing Britain First candidate in the recent London Mayoral elections
    – Ben Cohen
    May 6 at 9:36

3 Answers 3

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The man in the yellow and black striped tie, and a top hat with multiple pairs of glasses is Ravin Rodent Subortna, the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate.

Behind the Reform party candidate is a man in a tall top hat, that is Nick, The Flying Brick. The dummy is held by Sir Archibald Stanton, whose particular schtick is to mime along with the victory speech. I think the guy in the baseball cap is Farmin' Dave. They are part of the Monster Raving Loony Party team. A common theme is for the Loonies to have registered their name to something ridiculous, often seeming to include titles such as "Sir" or "Lord".

There is a tradition of "Joke Candidates" in the UK. People who stand for election to poke fun at the political system. The Monster Raving Loony Party is the most established of these "joke" groups. They field candidates for most elections. The have policies like We’re going to ban shredded cheese to make Britain grate again.” They aren't anarchists, in the normal sense of the word, but may be satirists.

As part of the political landscape, they serve the function of reminding us that anybody can stand for parliament, you don't need to be a "politician".

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    "Anarchists" don't form a coherent and unified group. There isn't a serious point being made.
    – James K
    Mar 9 at 1:03
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    The tradition seems to have started at the 1976 Cambridge by-election. Mar 9 at 16:29
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    Or perhaps 1963 when David (Screaming Lord) Sutch" stood for the "teenage party" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1963_Stratford_by-election (at the time, no teenagers could vote) But there have been other joke candidates, and in the USA too, such as Gracie Allen in 1940 for the "Surprise Party".
    – James K
    Mar 9 at 17:59
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    @einpoklum --- Joke candidates are not boycotted. One could enter into a long debate about which candidates count as jokes; some would make longer lists than others. In any case, I suggest reading about H'Angus the Monkey. Mar 10 at 18:38
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    @IanThompson: I meant that Anarchists typically argue against participating in state elections, both as candidates and as voters, for practical and moral reasons; so they "boycott" elections, not candidates as people. Thanks for the link, I'll go read that.
    – einpoklum
    Mar 10 at 18:55
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Based on similar lineups for victory speeches in other constituencies, these are most likely what the press calls 'joke candidates'. Similar lineup with more famous MPs (at the lectern)

enter image description here

Boris Johnson even ack'd them.

"I thank my fellow candidates in all their glory, Lord Buckethead, Elmo ... forgive me if I don't identify them all," Johnson said. He wasn't imagining things.

Lined up alongside the besuited Johnson and his more traditional political foes were:

  • a man dressed as a furry red Sesame Street character who called himself Bobby Elmo Smith;
  • Count Binface who wore a silver garbage can over his head and an improvised suit of armor;
  • Lord Buckethead, who donned a similar receptacle, colored black, and a matching cape.

As Johnson, 55, addressed the nation in his victory speech, "Elmo" quietly removed his costume behind him as the cameras rolled before taking a selfie with the back of the prime minister's head.

Such colorful sightings are not new to British elections.

The Monster Raving Loony Party, for example, has been contesting seats for decades, and Buckethead was their candidate in Uxbridge.

The party's late founder, "Screaming Lord Sutch", was fond of saying he stood "for the four Rs: reading, writing and rock'n'roll. There's always a serious message through a bit of fun!"

Anyone who wants to stand for parliament must pay a 500 pound ($641.50) deposit, and to get the money back you need to win at least 5% of the vote. The bad news for Elmo, Binface and Buckethead was that they fell well short.

Alas I don't know to which parties the guys in your picture belonged to exactly. Maybe someone else can fill those details. But one of them--the one with the large yellow thing on the hat--was probably the Loony Party candidate, based on higher-res photo from similar candidates elsewhere.

enter image description here

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  • I'm really struggling to figure out whether I prefer 'Count Binface' or 'Lord Buckethead'. In New York we sometimes have the "Rent is 2 Damn High" party versus the "Weed and Prostitution" party but 'Binface' and 'Buckethead' are much less distinguishable.
    – JimmyJames
    Mar 11 at 20:47
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The person shown at right of the OP's photograph is the Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, Ravin' Rodent Subortna (shown at right of this photograph), at the Rochdale by-election count:

Ravin Rodent Subortna (c) Monster Raving Loony Party

As @James K has mentioned, the UK has a long history of single-issue candidates, including (famously) Auberon Waugh on behalf of the Dog Lovers' Party, where he was standing as a protest candidate in the constituency of the disgraced former Liberal Democrat leader Jeremy Thorpe. Other single-issue candidates have stood for UK parliamentary elections for a variety of reasons (e.g. as a joke, to fight against an unpopular housing development, to reduce duty on alcohol, etc.) and, while there is sometimes no expectation whatsoever that the candidate will be successfully voted in or recover their deposit, they can bring wider attention to their issue for the cost of their deposit.

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    Wait, aren't those two people and one dummy?
    – einpoklum
    Mar 11 at 20:04
  • Yes, I should have indicated that in the image I uploaded. From L to R: Gilly Nicholls aka Gilly Mini-Me (puppet), Sir Archibald Stanton (MRLP prospective parliamentary candidate, Selby & Ainsty 2023 by-election), Ravin' Rodent Subortna (MRLP prospective parliamentary candidate, Rochdale 2024 by-election). Mar 11 at 21:17

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