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17 July 2007updated 27 Sep 2015 5:44am

An American meets a loony

The Monster Raving Loonies have become something of a feature of the British electoral scene as Amer

By William Hilderbrandt

You wouldn’t call John Cartwright a visionary or a trailblazer.

“My mother usually votes for me in local elections, and my father usually says why don’t you join a real party?”

You wouldn’t call Cartwright a natural-born leader. No, he’s rather gentle in manner and speaks far too softly to grab your attention with his voice.

But he will grab your attention in his jester hat, red-tail coat and placard campaigning for anything from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU or “free chocolate for pensioners”.

What you can call Cartwright is Parliamentary candidate for Ealing-Southall representing The Official Monster Raving Loony Party (TOMRLP). But he fancies himself something more romantic: “a centre-left bourgeois social democrat who is not quite a Marxist yet, but soon”.

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Cartwright, 38, has always been a free-thinker and this, his 17th election and fourth attempt at parliament, can be traced back to his youth. The quiet Marxist-to-be entered political life by forming his own party while at university dubbed the Chocolate Fudge-Cheesecake Appreciation Party. The party floundered and was disbanded the following year so Cartwright spent one year floating as an independent between parties before he discovered TOMRLP.

“We’re not left or right, that’s outdated,” he said. “The party operates on a pick-and-choose basis and encourages individuality.” The two issues he wants to advance most are ending the war in Iraq, and toppling what he calls “establishment” political parties where the “dictators”, or leaders, tell the members how to vote.

The TOMRLP encourages free thought to all its members and fosters cohesion by offering what Cartwright said no other major political party can: “No one tells you how to vote, what to think or what to do.” And this, for him, embodies why he runs: after so many defeats TOMRLP is symbolic of saying there should be more fun in politics and more free-thinkers.

It seemed that Cartwright isn’t the only one to have grown disenchanted with the big three: Tory, Labour or LibDem. As we stood in front of Ealing Town Hall, no fewer then five people approached Cartwright and wished him well or inquired about his individual views. More than half of them weren’t in his constituency but said they wish they had a local TOMRLP candidate.

“I would join if there was a representative where I live [Ealing-North]” said Andy Zmudzinski, 21, who looks like a die hard heavy metal fan. “”I’ve always been Tory but [political parties] are all about lies and bullshit.”

Another person passed by, a middle-aged clean-cut black man and yelled: “You couldn’t do any worse mate, you couldn’t do any worse! I was lifelong Labour but they weren’t loonies, they’re just psychopaths.”

Cartwright smiles and jokes that he’ll garner a thousand times more votes than his most prominent competitors – brand new Tory Tony Lit and Labour’s Virendra Sharma – but ultimately understands he stands no chance of winning. His best finish yet was the 2005 election when he received 193 votes out of the 49,000 cast – approximately 0.3% of support. Some may scoff at this lack of influence but Cartwright proudly asserts that sometimes elections are determined by narrow margins and long-shots like him prove that certain issues must be addressed more by the major candidates.

Still, Cartwright endures with optimism and from time-to-time a dose of realism.

“All the other candidates are worthy and honourable candidates and I presume them to mean well for the people, but they are misguided by not being in the right party. I’m afraid the winner be trapped in the political party machine. He’ll be told how to vote and all his good will of representing Southall will become lower on the list of priorities.”

I had a bit of trouble knowing what to think of Cartwright. As an American living abroad, I wondered if I was too conditioned to my two-party system back home, or if I would be more content if loonies had a place in Washington. Come to think of it, they already do.

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