The back page of the paper said: "When nothing makes sense, the maniac is king"

As we near polling day, in the family-oriented suburbs of north London, some nice mummies and daddies display ever more radical tendencies. Take last weekend. At the Crouch End Festival, the massed ranks of the moderately wealthy were eating ice cream and pushing prams in the sunshine. It was perfect canvassing territory for local candidates. No Tory activists had the nerve to turn up and, marooned under the clock tower, there stood three eager-beaver new Labour volunteers in front of a pristine stand of T-shirts, manifestos and Barbara Roche memorabilia. Her majority in 1997 was more than 20,000, so the high street should have been awash with new Labour balloons, yet the stand was at the centre of a human void. The plucky volunteers watched as the sea of potential voters walked in ever bigger and more ludicrous circles just to avoid having to speak to them. Outside Budgens, the scene was very different. Here, chino-clad men and women in Ralph Lauren shirts grappled for a leaflet from, or a chat with, a man calling himself "The Twit".

The Twit was wearing a Noddy Holder hat and sunglasses with the price tag still attached, which was dangling across the bridge of his nose. As I drew level with him, he said: "Nice sunglasses." I was wearing a pair of Seventies-style shades, the sort that make you look like a human fly, except the glass was coloured pink at the top and blue at the bottom. "I thought mine were the stupidest around," he said, "but yours are much better. Where did you get them?"

Three boys at that dangerous pre-teen age whisked over on skateboards and began spraying his clothes and hair with coloured paint, chanting: "Stupid, stupid, stupid." He bent down to let them colour the top of his head. After a couple of minutes, they got bored, and he turned to the ringleader and said: "Cheers, mate, see you later." The man was clearly insane. Still, like everyone else who passed him, I took his leaflet, impressed that here was the most convincing "loony" candidate ever.

What I thought was a manifesto was, in fact, the Daily Twit, a newspaper promising (and delivering) "no news and hardly any paper". The headline articles included "Dog Poo for Pleasure and Profit", "Asbestos Long Johns for the Modern User" and "More Pictures of Rubber Gloves". I jostled with other chino-wearing locals to know which party he was from. "I'm not standing," he announced to several disappointed groans, "I'm just a free radical in the election bloodstream."

Next to his pitch, another stand was also doing good business. The Socialist Alliance (also considered to be loonies by Tony Blair and Jack Straw) candidate for Haringey, Louise Christian, was given a warm greeting as she answered questions on the alliance's policies.

"I'll be voting for you this time," said an elderly woman. "The railways are a mess." The material that the candidate was handing out traded heavily on "New Labour is becoming more and more Old Tory", and the shoppers I saw all bobbed their heads in agreement or gave the Socialist Alliance the thumbs up on the way to buy their fresh pasta and ground coffee.

For a joke, I sellotaped a Socialist Alliance poster on to my mother-in-law's double-glazed front window. She is a true-blue, less-tax, union-loathing Tory. I could hardly wait for the fireworks to begin. I was sure she would be outraged when she saw the poster.

That evening, she said: "Very funny, that poster, Lauren." I offered to take it down, but she stopped me. "You know, I'm so sick of the lot of them [politicians] that I think I'll leave it up." I couldn't believe my ears.

"Besides, it's better than having Hague up there," said her partner.

The back page of the Daily Twit suddenly flashed into my mind. It reads: "When nothing makes sense, the maniac is king." Hague and Blair beware: the lunatics are taking over the suburban asylums.

This article first appeared in the 04 June 2001 issue of the New Statesman, A dying body attracts vultures