The Mad Hatter, or ‘Alasdair’ as he is more formally known, has no deficiency of whacky policies. Like every Monster Raving Loony candidate before him, he is determined to satirise British politics through an array of ridiculous proposals. A big fan of our dear OUSU President, the Mad Hatter admires Louis Trup’s plan to construct a student monorail around Oxford. Asked whether he thinks he can win as a joke candidate, like his idol Trup did, the Mad Hatter is not particularly confident of his chances. In fact, the Monster Raving Loonies are reported to have a rule stating that if any candidate ever wins parliamentary office they are instantly rejected from the party. Whilst no party members has ever suffered this misfortune – indeed, the party has never retained a parliamentary deposit – they have certainly made their mark. In last year’s Rochester-and-Strood by-election, the Liberal Democrat candidate only won 198 more votes than the Loony candidate. And in 1990, the party’s former leader Screaming Lord Sutch effectively ended the parliamentary life of the SDP when he beat them by 263 votes in the Bootle by-election.
A well-known Oxford tour guide in his day-to-day life, The Mad Hatter arrives at our interview dressed in full Mad Hatter attire. Aggrieved with Oxford’s lack of recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, he intends to grant Oxford’s Visitor Centre the exclusive licence to sell and explain the rules of Oxford Monopoly, a policy that will “eternally preserve Oxford’s unhampered business-as-usual approach to marketing and selling”. He also wishes to give local residents the right to redesign their building’s rooftop in a tea pot. On social welfare, he wants to replace pension credits with rich tea biscuits, and he wishes to boost youth and community involvement by encouraging first time offenders to attend free gourmet tasting and flower arrangement classes at the local Royal Women’s Institute. He also wishes to address the “controversial and complex” issue of immigration by legally requiring all of Oxford’s adult residents to “marry a foreigner” before the end of the year.
As is strangely often the case with the Monster Raving Loony Party, several of the Mad Hatter’s policies do not sound particularly absurd. In an attempt to address Oxford’s “sub-standard” student housing, he wishes to convert the Bicester Shopping Village into student housing, and enforce rent controls on private landlords and estate agents. Perhaps not a politically water-tight policy, but certainly not a ‘loony’ one. Indeed, several Monster Raving Loony policies have in the past been adopted in policy, including all-day pub openings and passports for pets.
The Party’s latest issue is not its lack of seriousness it seems, but electoral competition; the Party has for many years complained of UKIP ‘stealing’ its votes. When asked whether he thinks Ian McDonald, Oxford East’s UKIP candidate, could harm his core support, The Mad Hatter signals agreement, mentioning David Cameron’s description of Nigel Farage’s party as “fruitcakes”.
As The Mad Hatter leaves our interview in central Oxford, still wearing his full costume, the description of “sad clowns” given to the party by Anoosh Chakelian in The New Statesman seems wholly inaccurate – the candidate seems like a genuinely fun-loving and energetic entertainer, determined to find all the comedy he can in British politics.