Matt Forde dressed up in a chicken suit for one. A lighter look at why we should savour by-elections
It’s been by-election open season of late, which means plenty of drama. If the general election is like the Premier League, then by-elections are like league cup ties. They can be scrappy affairs, there’s always the possibility of an upset and you don’t want an away trip to Bradford. Some people dread by-elections. Here are some reasons to savour them:
You get a lot of attention as a candidate. Not just from the media but also from the party hierarchy. Some people bask in that warm light, others go bananas. Some political rules change over time. One rule will forever hold true: it’s always funny seeing a candidate throw a bunch of leaflets into the air while screaming and kicking someone’s garage door.
Anyone who puts on weight during a by-election campaign cannot be trusted. It seems that some people rock up to a campaign and misunderstand the purpose of their guts. At a by-election they exist to be flogged out, not filled up. These canny individuals will have mysterious meetings to go to at lunchtimes and do very little when they return. An early warning sign that your comrade is skiving is when they give directions by pubs. ‘Neil, do you know where we’re meeting the candidate?’ ‘Yeah, take a left at The Crown, head past The Prince of Wales and then turn right outside The Wheatsheaf. You know, the one that does £2 a pint until 7pm, unless it’s a Sunday where it’s £1.50 all day? You what? Yes, I do work for a union.’
Before they were famous
One of the pleasures of working on a by-election is striking up a friendship with a budding politician. It’s like getting into a band before anyone else has heard of them. ‘Owen Smith, I saw him at Blaenau Gwent in ’06. People just didn’t get it, he had some great stuff. Now everyone’s into him.’
No one in their right mind would want to dress up in a chicken suit and follow the Liberal Democrat candidate around the constituency. But someone is going to have to. A few years ago it was me in that chicken suit. It was so hot in there it felt like I was sweating my innards out through my face. The eye holes were too small to see out of and I was staggering around all over the street while one of our leading politicians bellowed through a loudhailer, ‘Lib Dems, soft on crime, soft on thugs, soft on drugs.’ I tried my best to cluck along to the beat of the words but it looked more like someone had stuck a chicken suit on Gazza. It’s all great fun until it’s your candidate getting followed by some eager youth in a gimp mask. Although I’m not sure that bloke was even registered to vote.
As well as all of these treats, you also get the pleasure of wearing your by-election campaigns like badges of honour. I remember mine like military tours. ‘Yeah, I did a three-month stint in Leicester South then got posted to Livingston. We lost a lot of good men that year.’
Next time there’s a by-election, enjoy the theatre of it. I’ll see you down The Wheatsheaf.
Matt Forde is a stand-up comedian and talkSPORT presenter. He used to work for the Labour party www.mattforde.com
by-elections, campaigning, Labour