A blog post by Andy Hoyle, Learning Officer
While recently carrying out research for an upcoming event on the topic of fake news, I stumbled across a very interesting piece in the 19 June 1987 edition of Labour Weekly. ‘FLEET STREET TRUE TO FORM’ was the headline. The article touched on various media portrayals of that year’s general election and bestowed fictional prizes for categories such as best newspaper coverage (The Independent), most biased coverage (The Guardian), the most misleading leader award (The Guardian again) and the environmental press award for services to recycling (The Sun, which apparently ran an ‘exclusive’ that had been published “in some cases, word for word” two years previously).
It is the award for creative journalism that is perhaps the most memorable. The winner again goes to The Sun which ran an article entitled, “Why I’m backing Kinnock by Stalin.”
According to this ‘genuine exclusive’ the newspaper contacted a spiritualist medium who interviewed famous leaders from beyond the grave. These included Josef Stalin (who went for Kinnock) as well as Winston Churchill (he backed Thatcher), James Keir Hardie, Boudicea and Genghis Khan. As only a small portion of the actual article is pictured in the Labour Weekly we can but guess the political affiliation of the twelfth-century Mongol emperor.
Having read this bizarre piece, I have tried to compile a list of potential beyond-the-grave voters for our upcoming 2017 general election. Examining the various party websites, I have plumped for famous individuals who I feel would choose to make their mark in the polling booths for each party. This is, of course, a satirical blog post. The contents do not represent the wider views of the museum as an institution. So…here it goes.
The Conservative Party – Theresa May recently stated that the country needs a ‘strong and stable leadership in the national interest’ and that ‘we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world.’ With this in mind, a strong nationalist seems a sensible call. Although I don’t have the powers of a spiritualist medium, I feel that my instincts on this one are quite strong. Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) is my pick for the Conservative party.
Good Queen Bess oversaw periods of tension – both economic and military – but generally helped to stabilise the nation both internally and in Europe. These are themes that are often talked about in Conservative party broadcasts. She was notably engaged in a serious confrontation with the Spanish navy (don’t mention Gibraltar!) She also had problems regarding Scotland – similarly to the current Conservative government. I feel that if the virgin queen were to enter her polling station in June 2017, the Conservative party would get her vote. Try as I might, she couldn’t be reached for a quote.
The Green Party – The Green Party of England and Wales currently have one MP in the House of Commons and are jointly led by Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley. Their website says that the party supports an economy that gives everyone their fare share. Although dwarfed by other larger parties, their confidence and self-portrayal as a real alternative has the potential to fare well against the odds. That’s why Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) would vote Green.
From humble seeds, mighty oaks do grow! Joan was born into a life of peasantry in north eastern France before going on to support the uncrowned Dauphine of France. She subsequently lifted the siege of Orleans and aided in the victory over the English – notably at the battle of Patay – which led to the coronation of Charles VII. Her swift victories and unbridled momentous support led to the overthrow of the existing order. The ‘maid of Orleans’ would see herself in the Green Party of England and Wales. That’s why they would get her vote. Saint Joan for the win!
Close Second – Saint Francis of Assisi
The Labour Party – The Labour Party’s website calls to ‘rebuild and transform Britain, for the many not the few.’ Jeremy Corbyn has fought off many internal wars to remain the party leader and goes into the general election campaign as an underdog. Thus, my pick of historical figures that would chose to vote Labour goes to Alfred the Great (849 – 899).
Hailed as the King of Anglo Saxons, I feel Alfred would agree with Labour’s pledges. The ninth century warlord overhauled the tax system, levying huge amounts of money from the most productive landholdings throughout his kingdom. A ‘progressive tax system’ is central to the Labour Party’s appeal. Alfred, as well as being an advocate for education, oversaw turbulence within his kingdom, notably leading nine battles in one year. Ever the underdog, ‘the wise elf’ would, in my opinion, root for the Labour Party. He also has some lovely facial hair!
The Liberal Democrats – Led by Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrats are tipped to do better than their poor 2015 outing. Their strong pro-EU stance will appeal to many potential voters, including the late Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck (1815 – 1898).
During his time in political office, Bismarck saw the creation of a united German nation and, once achieved, kept the peace in Europe for decades. He developed strong relationships across the European continent and was a shrewd tactician when it came to diplomacy, often allying with different parties when necessary. The Liberal Democrats have shown that they also can work in coalitions and their position may be similar come June. The party claim on their website that they are ‘forward-looking’ and that they ‘will always put the interests of the whole country first.’ This is why ‘the iron chancellor’ would throw his lot in with the Liberal Democrats.
Plaid Cymru – Leanne Wood and Plaid Cymru currently hold 3 seats in the UK Parliament. Although the party has existed for close to a hundred years, their recent statistics perhaps hint at a gathering of momentum. They have claimed over 10% of the votes cast in Wales in every general election since 2001 and with support for the traditional parties looking tentative, maybe their anti-establishment message will grow stronger. The father of Welsh nationalism Owain Glyndŵr would vote Plaid.
The fourteenth century strongman spent decades battling his English rivals. Upset by a dominant England, he was crowned Prince of Wales in 1404 and oversaw the creation of a Welsh Parliament. Glyndŵr held great respect amongst his supporters who rebelled against the punitive Penal Laws against Wales. Seen as a Welsh nationalist hero with anti-establishment credentials to boot, the well-educated polyglot wouldn’t hesitate to put a cross next to his local Plaid Cymru candidate.
Special Mentions – Richard Burton
The Scottish National Party – Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP have made huge gains north of the border but may come under threat on the 8th June. Their vision of an independent country free from Westminster interference has gained traction, yet not quite enough to return a positive result in their 2014 referendum. Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329) is my choice on this one.
The Bruce fought battles both internally and against English armies, notably defeating a far larger force under Edward II at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. A talented diplomat, Robert the Bruce made alliances across Europe. He successfully secured Scotland’s position as a sovereign nation and would be an obvious SNP voter had he still be alive today – at the ripe old age of 742.
Runners Up – Robert Burns, William Wallace
UKIP – The UK Independence Party have perhaps done more than any other to set themselves as the anti-establishment party. Their desire to leave the European Union defines their outlook as strong nationalists on the right of the political compass. Often considered one of the top 10 greatest Britons of all time, Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805) would choose team purple.
A very popular figure – particularly amongst the men who served under him – Nelson was able to utilise his personable popularity alongside his unorthodox skill to secure great victories for himself and the Royal Navy. His unconventional tactics in his role as Vice-Admiral at the battle of Trafalgar were the main factor explaining the British victory against superior numbers. UKIP’s leader Paul Nuttall states on the party website that he ‘welcomes the opportunity to take UKIP’s positive message to the country’. Ever-confident, Viscount Nelson would put a cross next to the UKIP candidate, provided he could hold a pencil with his left hand.
Also Ran – Davy Crockett
Whilst all attempts to reach the deceased individuals were tried, ultimately my endeavours proved fruitless. As such, none of those listed above were available for comment.