To get on a ballot you just need 10 signatures from voters within the constiuency you wish to stand and pay a deposit of £500 (returnable on recieving 5% of the vote).
As a result any loon with £500 burning a hole in their pocket can get on the ballot, and as a result stand on a stage with the other candidates whilst the returning officer announces the results on polling day.
And a by-election (an election in a single constituency that takes place between general elections) is particularly attractive to joke/fringe candidates, because they’re more likely to be seen on TV when there’s only one result announcement that day.
[ETA] And if memory serve it used to be the case that news reports were obliged, whether by law or some code of practice, to list all the candidates in by-elections. So you’d have some sober newsreader saying “… David Fnarr-Fnarr-Biscuit, of the Biscuit Liberation Front, …” etc. These days they can just say that a full list of candidates, visit their website or whatever.
If anything, it used to be even worse. The deposit used to be only £150, until inflation made standing for Parliament too attractive to crackpots. Also, every candidate gets a free mailshot to every house in the constituency; and companies started putting up candidates in order to use this mailshot as cheap advertising. £150 was cheap compared to paying the postage for their junk mail. Since this was clearly an abuse of the system, the deposit was increased to £500.
Indeed, I recall a particularly good piece of abuse of the system: many years ago, in the town of Thame near where I used to live, there was a company that sold Chesterfield sofas. During a Chesterfield by-election, in which there were dozens of crazy parties entering, the company started a policital party called the “Buy your Chesterfield sofa in Thame party”. They lost their deposit, but they got £££££s of free publicity.
Hmm… there are 646 constituencies, at £500 a shot, it might not be that bad a deal in a general election. For around £325K you get a mailshot to every house in the country and coverage on all the BBC election broadcasts. Also, you would probably attract quite a bit of attention from the media for doing it in the first place. You would also be entitled to a Party Political Broadcast at primetime on the BBC and Channel 4. Any flaws in the plan?
I think one of the other deterrences to the looney candidates is the requirements for registration of political parties, which now mean you need to be prepared in advance of the election being called rather than being able to call yourself anything. I think.
I’m actually surprised that this hasn’t been done in Australia yet- we simply don’t have a Monster Raving Loony Party or a McGillicuddy Serious Party like they do/did in the UK & NZ.
I thought about doing it for the last State election, as it only costs $200 and would look good on the CV (Contested the 2006 Queensland Election as an independent candidate on the Imperialism platform) but was thwarted by the fact they didn’t actually announce the election until it was too late for me to get the required signatures and then get all the paperwork into the Electoral Commission.
Still, it’s not long until the 2010 elections so we’ll see what happens.
In my hometown some years ago our local football hooligans fielded a candidate for a joke after a heavy session in the pub and I believe that he didn’t lose his deposit.
In one general election where the main political parties appeared to have cloned political policies i wanted to vote for the Raving Monster Loony Party as a protest vote but infortunately they hadn’t fielded a candidate in my constituency so I made do by voting for the Green Party which was nowhere near as satisfying.