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Ain't no party like a political party!

Mon, 22/06/2015
Matthew Gibson

Matthew Gibson

When Mensa Matthew Gibson decided he wanted to shake up the General Election, he didn't just stand as a candidate - he set up his own political party!

It was Christmas 2014. I was with family when I decided to announce that I would be standing for election at this year’s General Election. As I looked into my options, I learned that ‘Independent’ candidates can only put their name and the word ‘Independent’ on the ballot paper. I wanted a logo and a strapline, so I setup my own political party and called it the Keep It Real Party.

The aim of the party was to engage the young disaffected electorate. My personal aim was to represent a positive alternative to the negative sentiments of separatism and xenophobia that were being transmitted, to varying degrees, by the supporters of other parties.

Bundled into these higher aims, I was also going find out how far this experience would take me. I would earn the right to tell armchair politicians to put up or shut up. I was going to be the Keep It Real candidate at the UK Parliamentary General Election in 2015. My friends called me a legend. It still makes me smile.

The process

I paid £150 and submitted a party constitution, an emblem and a financial scheme to the Electoral Commission. Six weeks later my political party was officially registered.  I launched a website and started tweeting to the world.

Nomination paperwork requires signatures from ten people in the chosen constituency.  I got ten signatures from wherever I could find them and, combined with a £500 deposit, completed my nomination on deadline day.

Campaigning

The objective of my party was to engage the non-voting electorate (they generally outnumber the people who vote for the winners). I contacted schools, asking to talk to sixth formers and concentrated on my website and Twitter. I was contacted by ITV Anglia and a local newspaper. I was invited to one hustings and I received a number of emails from campaign groups and local constituents. I did my best to reply to all of these and posted redacted replies on my website.

The big day

I went with family and friends to the election count and stayed up until 6am, when the result was declared. I did one media interview and stood on the stage with the other candidates for photographs. I had received 116 votes, including the vote I cast for myself.

Aftermath

There are many things I have learned from this experience. I recommend the experience but I would recommend doing it as cheaply and with as little effort as possible.

I involved my children at every stage of this experience. They had a tour of the Mayor’s office, were given ‘election’ stationery, they saw postal votes being opened and saw the first ballot papers being counted. They really enjoyed themselves and they learned a lot about our political process.

Many candidates complain about being ignored by the media. I did feel this and it was widespread but I do not think this was a conspiracy. People in the media have to involve the main candidates but involving random acts, like me, might be risky and would require extra effort so they just don’t bother. If I was to complain about anything it would be that I did not receive a single reply or acknowledgment from any of the local sixth forms or colleges that I contacted.

The hardest thing was attending a hustings. I am used to speaking in front of people but they are normally expecting to be entertained (wedding speeches) or they simply have to be there (work meetings). A hustings crowd is quite hostile and this was a new experience for me. Nonetheless, it was liberating to stand up and tell the world what I believe in – it’s not often you get the chance to do that.

As an experience, it was thrilling to be a candidate. For six weeks I could imagine, as all candidates do, that I stood a chance of winning.

The future

As a political exercise it was an unmitigated failure. I now have to decide whether to shut the party down or to aim higher next time. Aiming higher would have to mean fielding more candidates.

As far as attracting more voters is concerned, my thinking is unchanged.  It is incredibly hard fighting for the votes of the known electorate. The major parties spend millions on this at every election. A softer target would be to try to attract the millions of people who don’t vote. There are more people who didn’t vote than voted for the Conservatives. This means being the ‘none of the above’ party (incidentally, this is name is not permitted for a political party). Whilst this might seem trivial, I would consider it a huge public service to get more people out to vote. If they can be bothered to vote for ‘none of the above’ in 2020 then maybe, next time, they will be bothered to vote for someone else.

Matthew Gibson
Leader, Keep It Real Party

matt@keepitrealparty.uk
@keepitrealparty

This article was originally published in the July 2015 edition of Mensa Magazine

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