Britain has a rich recent history of eccentric candidates running for office despite having little chance of success, and every chance of losing their deposit.
The English musician Screaming Lord Sutch achieved fame in the 1980s after founding the Official Monster Raving Loony party. In total, he stood for parliament 39 times and was trounced 39 times. But no television coverage of election night was complete without at least one lingering shot of Sutch in his trademark top hat and leopardskin jacket.
Sutch was perhaps a forerunner of what now seems a staple of UK elections, and the ballot for Thursday’s London mayoral election is chock-full of candidates you might charitable describe as outside bets.
Some 20 people are standing and the final Savanta ComRes poll on Wednesday shows that Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan has a commanding 41% of first preference votes, holding a double-digit lead over Conservative challenger, Shaun Bailey.
So with the contest looking like a two-horse race – or one horse, if we’re completely honest – many political watchers have turned their eye to the battle lower down the ticket. So who are they, what are they offering, and who will get the wooden spoon?
Niko Omilana is the break-out election star that most professional politicos have never heard of – but millions of people have. The YouTuber is among several candidates who are running independently, and is set to be the most successful.
The Savanta ComRes poll has the 23-year-old is arguably punching above his weight on 6% of first preferences, which is up one point on the last survey. To put that in context, he’s just two percentage points behind the Liberal Democrat candidate and one ahead of the Green party’s nomination.
Omilana has around 3.5 million subscribers on YouTube alone, and more social media followers than all the other candidates combined. The content on his channel is typically pranks, challenges, and elaborate stunts.
In a video clip uploaded to Twitter announcing his campaign, he introduced himself as the “founding father and supreme leader of the Niko Defence League”, known more commonly as NDL. The “NDL” was a knowing parody of the far-right English Defence League, and Omilana even trolled its figurehead Tommy Robinson by getting him to endorse his group.
If he manages to stay above 5% on election day, he keeps the £10,000 deposit required to stand.
What he would do if he won seems to be less of the point of the campaign than it being another opportunity to create “content”. The first policy listed in his manifesto is: “Boris Johnson will be forced to shush.”
Count Binface is the “interplanetary space warrior” who first came to prominence after standing against Boris Johnson in the 2019 general election.
In his manifesto, the count, played by comedian Jon Harvey, 41, plans to rename London Bridge as Phoebe Waller Bridge and have London join the EU.
Another pledge is to ensure that no croissant is sold for more than £1 and that a hand dryer at an Uxbridge pub will be moved “to a more sensible position”.
“These are just obvious policies and it mystifies me that it takes a space warrior to point them out,” he reflects.
The count said he would like to be endorsed for mayor by some illustrious names: “Top of my list at the moment are probably Ian McShane, Barack Obama, Emily Maitlis and Chris Rea.”
He is one of nine candidates polling at 1% in London.
On the surface, Brian Rose is a fairly routine candidate – a businessman who wears expensive suits claiming that politics can be transformed by applying the principles of business and old-fashioned common sense.
But the American, who has lived in London for the past 21 years, raised eyebrows when two clips emerged of the 49-year-old drinking his own urine (one was posted on his Instagram in 2018).
“The whole team here thinks I’m crazy and thinks it’s kind of gross,” Rose said, before adding that he was drinking his urine because “it’s medicinal”.
The poll suggests 1% of Londoners like what they hear.
There has been blanket coverage of the one-time Lewis actor turned anti-lockdown, anti-woke publicity hound, who is standing under the Reclaim Party banner and its ‘Free London’ pledges.
The mainstream media’s fascination – long interviews have run in The Telegraph, New Statesman, and Evening Standard in the last week – and a campaign said to have £5 million in the coffers has put him on 2% of the vote, edging ahead of Binface in the fierce battle everyone is talking about.
Another YouTuber – Max Fosh, who has 419,000 subscribers – is running simply to “get more votes” than Fox (they both went to Harrow school) and admits he would be a terrible mayor. He trails Fox on 1%.
Former weather forecaster Piers Corbyn, the former Labour leader’s older brother, is a notorious anti-vaxxer, anti-lockdown protester and climate change sceptic. Also tied on 1%.
UKIP’s candidate, meanwhile, is called Peter Gammons. Another on the 1% berth.