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Al Murray announces he's running against Farage in South Thanet

"Let it be known, like many of the parliamentary hopefuls in the upcoming election, I have no idea where South Thanet is. But did that stop Margaret Thatcher from saving the Falkland Islands? No."

Stand-up comedian Al Murray has today announced - in character as the ironically-xenophobic Pub Landlord - that he's going to be running for MP in South Thanet, against another "bloke waving a pint around, offering common sense solutions". In a party political broadcast on behalf of "FUKP" (the "Free the United Kingdom Party"), he said:

That is why I am here to announce my intention to run for election as member of parliament for the constituency of South Thanet. Let it be known, like many of the parliamentary hopefuls in the upcoming election, I have no idea where South Thanet is. But did that stop Margaret Thatcher from saving the Falkland Islands? No.

I will not at any point try to reach out to you. Ugh. I will not be offering the nation a conversation. Who wants to talk to politicians? Nobody normal. I'm not going to pretend you're my friends either. No. The reason I'm standing is because the system is broken. We all know it is. You hear people saying you shouldn't vote. Well, you should vote, you should vote boys and girls, and you should vote for me."

He's offering a bunch of "common sense policies for common sense people", including:

  • "1p a pint" and "1p a glass of wine (fruit-based drink for the ladies) too".
  • The pound will be revalued as being worth £1.10.
  • People turning up at A&E when it's not an accident or an emergency will "be sent to a random hospital department" to be treated instead. 
  • Deliberately making the UK "a whole lot worse" so that immigrants stop wanting to come to "the greatest nation on Earth".
  • Bricking up the Channel Tunnel. ("With British bricks, of course - but probably have to get some Poles in to do it. Common sense.").
  • School places allocated by "street raffle".
  • Alex Salmond to be made first minister of Norwich, "so he can understand what being ignored by the rest of the country is really like".
  • Pledging that the UK will leave Europe by 2025, and the Solar System by 2050.
  • National service, "but only for those who don't want to do it".

He concludes:

We in the FUKP don't claim to have all the answers, or, indeed, any of them. But what we do promise is we will save the British pub, fight the Germans (if they're up for it), and burn down the Houses of Parliament for the insurance.

The other parties are offering you the Moon on a stick. We can do better than that: a British Moon, on a British stick."

Murray's gigs are often popular with far-right nationalists who don't get that he's taking the piss out of them. Maybe he's banking on Ukip voters in South Thanet having the same problem in the polling booth in May. 

I'm a mole, innit.

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Beware, hard Brexiteers - Ruth Davidson is coming for you

The Scottish Conservative leader is well-positioned to fight. 

Wanted: Charismatic leader with working-class roots and a populist touch who can take on the Brexiteers, including some in the government, and do so convincingly.

Enter Ruth Davidson. 

While many Tory MPs quietly share her opposition to a hard Brexit, those who dare to be loud tend to be backbenchers like Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. 

By contrast, the Scottish Conservative leader already has huge credibility for rebuilding her party north of the border. Her appearances in the last days of the EU referendum campaign made her a star in the south as well. And she has no qualms about making a joke at Boris Johnson’s expense

Speaking at the Institute of Directors on Monday, Davidson said Brexiteers like Nigel Farage should stop “needling” European leaders.

“I say to the Ukip politicians, when they chuckle and bray about the result in June, grow up,” she declared. “Let us show a bit more respect for these European neighbours and allies.”

Davidson is particularly concerned that Brexiteers underestimate the deeply emotional and political response of other EU nations. 

The negotiations will be 27 to 1, she pointed out: “I would suggest that macho, beer swilling, posturing at the golf club bar isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

At a time when free trade is increasingly a dirty word, Davidson is also striking in her defence of the single market. As a child, she recalls, every plate of food on the table was there because her father, a self-made businessman, had "made stuff and sold it abroad". 

She attacked the Daily Mail for its front cover branding the judges who ruled against the government’s bid to trigger Article 50 “enemies of the people”. 

When the headline was published, Theresa May and Cabinet ministers stressed the freedom of the press. By contrast, Davidson, a former journalist, said that to undermine “the guardians of our democracy” in this way was “an utter disgrace”. 

Davidson might have chosen Ukip and the Daily Mail to skewer, but her attacks could apply to certain Brexiteers in her party as well. 

When The Staggers enquired whether this included the Italy-baiting Foreign Secretary Johnson, she launched a somewhat muted defence.

Saying she was “surprised by the way Boris has taken to the job”, she added: “To be honest, when you have got such a big thing happening and when you have a team in place that has been doing the preparatory work, it doesn’t make sense to reshuffle the benches."

Nevertheless, despite her outsider role, the team matters to Davidson. Part of her electoral success in Scotland is down the way she has capitalised on the anti-independence feeling after the Scottish referendum. If the UK heads for a hard Brexit, she too will have to fend off accusations that her party is the party of division. 

Indeed, for all her jibes at the Brexiteers, Davidson has a serious message. Since the EU referendum, she is “beginning to see embryos of where Scotland has gone post-referendum”. And, she warned: “I do not think we want that division.”


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.