Al Murray, the comedian whose act is built around caricaturising a recognisable English archetype, has decided to stand in South Thanet, Kent during the general election in May. The relevance of this particular constituency is obvious: it is where Nigel Farage has decided to plant his flag in the hopes of taking his place amongst the green benches.
Murray will be standing in character, it should be noted. Murray himself is public-school/Oxbridge educated, while the Pub Landlord persona he has invented is sort of wilfully ignorant. He (by that I mean the real Al Murray) clearly wants to show Farage up and demonstrate how ludicrous UKIP’s xenophobic patter has become.
The question then becomes whether or not Murray running as the Pub Landlord will draw votes away from Farage via bigots thinking he’s either for real or at least funny enough to deserve an X by his name, or will it split the anti-Farage vote and let Nige into Westminster? Or will it make absolutely no difference whatsoever?
I think the Murray intervention will make little difference to who ends up MP for South Thanet post-May 7th. I thought the Tories were going to keep the seat before this announcement; I remain firm in that belief. Murray will scare up a few headlines, but not that many votes. Joke candidates rarely do so.
Besides, one of the reasons that I feel confident that the Conservatives will hold onto this seat is that they have chosen the perfect candidate to win in South Thanet. Craig Mackinley is not only very Eurosceptic, he used to be in UKIP. In fact, he used to be UKIP’s deputy leader. His is an easy campaign to run: vote for me and you keep Labour out and ensure an In/Out referendum goes ahead. Farage can promise you nothing for he will be in no position to do so. You get the “joy” of UKIP without the downsides.
So when you talk about an anti-Farage camp, you’re really talking about Labour. Murray standing might affect them in a minor way, but they were very unlikely to win here anyhow. Watch for any South Thanet related stories surrounding Murray’s candidacy after the election should either Farage or Labour win the seat and the Pub Landlord get a better than expected tally of votes. It will then be tediously speculated as to whether the new MP for the constituency managed to win on the back of a “Murray factor” or not.