The McGillicuddy Serious Party

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The McGillicuddy Serious Party (McGSP) functioned as a satirical political party in New Zealand. For many years, from 1984 to 1999, McGillicuddy Serious provided "colour" to New Zealand politics to ensure that citizens not take the political process too seriously. The party's logo, the head of a medieval court jester, indicated McGillicuddy Serious's status as a joke party.

The party stood candidates in the 1984, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1996 and 1999 General Elections; the 1986, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998 Local Body elections; along with various local body and parliamentary by-elections and even some university student association elections.


The McGillicuddy Serious Party formed in 1984 in Hamilton as the political arm of Clan McGillicuddy (established in 1978). Members of the Clan had stood as candidates in 1983 local-body elections in the Waikato, but the McGSP was established in time to contest the 1984 General Election. The party had a strong Scottish theme, and the kilt was considered to be one of the party's symbols. Initially many candidates were students of Waikato University. They also included a number of street-performers and comedic musical groups, such as the Serious Ukulele ensemble and the Big Muffin Serious Band.

Challenge for the Crown

After discovering that he had some (rather obscure) relationship to the Stuart pretenders, Clan McGillicuddy advanced Bonnie Prince Geoffie the reluctant as replacement for Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom|Queen Elizabeth II. The Clan attempted to settle the matter by trial by combat, challenging the New Zealand Army to a winner takes all pillow fight. Although HRH's official armed defenders declined the offer, the McGillicuddy Highland Army occasionally fought the loyalist forces of Alf's Imperial Army, a pro British pacifist warfare group who supported The Wizard of New Zealand and McGillicuddy's rival for the silly vote, the Imperial British Conservative Party. The party sometimes became the subject of aggression from unexpected quarters — in 1990 Green party candidate Warrick Pudney challenged his Te Atatu rival to a paper-sword fight in Aotea Square (the fight was declared a draw, both combatants were treated for paper cuts). Unarmed insurrection having failed, the Clan reluctantly turned to the ballot box, contesting general elections from 1984 to 1999.

Candidate selection

Party candidates for election were at one point selected through trial by combat, with newspaper swords and water balloons, the loser of the combat becoming the candidate. In 1990 this policy was replaced by standing several candidates for the same seat (it being illegal for the same candidate to contest two seats, doubling their chances of election, but legal for a party to have two candidates standing in the same electorate, halving their chances). In 1996 a giant game of musical chairs took place in Cathedral Square, Christchurch to select the Canterbury regional electorate candidates. Whoever remained sitting on one of the labelled chairs when the music stopped became the candidate for that seat. Candidates for proportional representation (list) seats were selected Cinderella-style by trying to fit into labelled shoes.

McGillicuddy policies

The McGillicuddy Serious Party selected its policies on the basis of their absurdity and their impracticality.

Central McGillicuddy Serious policies in every election included a return to a medieval lifestyle, known as the "Great Leap Backwards" and the restoration of a monarchy supposedly based on the Scottish Jacobite line, in the name of Bonnie Prince Geoffie "the reluctant".

Other policies at various times included:

Free dung
The abolition of money
Replacing money with chocolate fish as legal tender.
The demolition of The Beehive
The demolition of New Zealand's parliament buildings, and all other buildings on a last up, first down basis.
Raising the school leaving-age to sixty-five
After Parliament raised the school leaving-age by one un-ambitious year.
Full unemployment (or at other times, full employment through slavery)
Restricting the vote to minors
i.e. ONLY those under 18 years of age could vote. Announced when Parliament lowered the voting age to 18 years.
Student loans for Plunket (or at other times, Kindergarten attendance)
Prior to the 1984 election, David Lange's Labour Party promised to maintain free tertiary education, but Labour's Education Minister, Phil Goff, introduced student fees when elected. National Party education spokesman Lockwood Smith promised a return to free education if elected, but did not carry out this promise. Most McGillicuddy supporters were students, and not pleased that both major political parties had decided free tertiary education was unsustainable, but deliberately lied about their intentions to attract votes.
Abandoning male suffrage
New Zealand, the first nation to achieve women's suffrage, made a big deal of the centenary of this at the time of the 1993 elections.
Full hedgehog suffrage
After a goat was successfully entered into a local body election on Waiheke Island, the party unsuccessfully attempted to stand a hedgehog for parliament, apparently solely in order to make 'prick' jokes.
Votes for trees
New Zealanders are notorious environmentalists, and the University of Auckland's ex-Marxist law lecturer Klaus Bosselmann actually seriously advocated giving trees (and other bits of the environment), some legal standing. The McGillicuddys were divided about whether native trees should be able to vote in Maori electorates, whether male trees as well as female trees should vote, and what the status of shrubs was.
The demolition of the Auckland CBD
In order to create a giant sundial, using the Sky Tower as the gnomon. Or at other times, to protect the Sky Tower by placing a condom over it. There was controversy about the unfortunately ugly sky tower, and the social impact of the casino it advertises.
Replacing the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps with Mounted Knights
Claimed to be more modern. The New Zealand Army's outdated equipment was a constant source of quips and embarrassment in the 1990s — at the time Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles operated FV101 Scorpions and M-113s.
Building dreadnoughts in the Tamaki Estuary
A reference to the Royal New Zealand Navy's controversial purchase of Anzac class frigates.
An All Whites victory in the FSoccer World Cup]]
Both the Labour Party and the National Party used the All Blacks' victory in the 1987 Rugby Union World Cup in their 1990 campaigning — the All Whites stood about as much chance of winning the Soccer World Cup as Brazil have of winning the Rugby version.
An indecent society
Jim Bolger's National Party used the slogan "A Decent Society".
A potato famine
Prime Minister Jim Bolger's somewhat pock-marked countenance bore an unfortunate resemblance to the common garden potato. Much to his displeasure, he became widely known as "Spud"; the Royal New Zealand Air Force, with a typically Kiwi lack of reverence, christened his Boeing 727 'Spud One'.
Limiting the speed of light to 100km/h
50 km/h in Mount Roskill, (Auckland's Bible Belt), because folks there preferred to be less enlightened.
Linking the North Island and South Island
by bulldozing the Southern Alps into Cook Strait.
Post-natal abortion
The fundamentalist Christian Heritage Party used abortion as a major policy.
Free Tongan citizenship
National's Brian Neeson accused Dan McCaffrey, Labour's 1990 candidate for Te Atatu] of promising some Pacific Islanders New Zealand citizenship if they joined the [Labour Party. Tonga was at the time selling its passports to all comers, leading to a clamp-down by other countries on people travelling under Tongan passports. McCaffrey's McGillicuddy Serious opponent, Kit Boyes, offered free Tongan citizenship to everyone who didn't vote for him. McCaffrey threatened defamation proceedings against a bemused Boyes, who was McGillicuddy spokesperson for legalised theft (taxation) — and also, unfortunately for McCaffrey, a law student.
Air bags for the New Zealand Stock Exchange
Following the 1987 stock market crash.
Replacing the Queen's chain with hemp
Labour Party had a policy of protecting and extending the Queen's chain, forcing farmes and iwi to allow public access to waterways. Candidate Dominic Worthington proposed replacing the chain with more environmentally sound hemp, the Queen, of course, was to be replaced with Prince Geoffie the reluctant, and rather than limiting the chain to protecting water in aqueous form, the King's hemp would also be used to hold together water in solid form, such as the ice in New Zealand's glaciers and Antarctic territory, in particular, the Ross Ice Shelf (which environmentalists are concerned may collapse and raise sea levels). Ultimately it was planned that technology would regress far enough for it to become plausible to use the King's hemp to lasso water in gaseous form (i.e. clouds).
Fixing accountants in concrete and using them as traffic barriers
Occasionally accompanied by a pledge to steal some of the Monster Raving Loony Party's other policies as well — so possibly a reference to New Zealand political parties accusing each other of stealing policies, or possibly just silliness.
Good weather
But only if voters behaved.
To break their promises

Decline and plummet

McGillicuddy Serious attracted a surprising level of support, and became one of the larger parties outside parliament. On a number of occasions, particularly following the introduction of the MMP electoral system, it was predicted that McGillicuddy Serious might actually win parliamentary representation, although this never happened. When the major parties boycotted the Tauranga by-election 1993, the McGillicuddy Serious candidate finished second to Winston Peters. (A very, very distant second.) Votes for McGillicuddy were most often protest votes, something that the party encouraged with one of its slogans: "If you want to waste your vote, vote for us."

As time went on, McGillicuddy Serious began to encounter the problem that often appears in joke parties — a debate about exactly how serious it should be. The original founders of the party essentially saw it as "a bit of fun", aimed at providing humour and entertainment. This remained a major part of McGillicuddy Serious throughout its history. Later recruits to the party however, sometimes saw the party's satire in a more serious context, regarding it as a tool with which people could ridicule and challenge the political establishment. In particular, a number of anarchists joined the party, seeing it as an antidote to the traditional order. The dichotomy, in essence, was between "satire for fun" and "satire to make a political point". Many of the party's original members resented what they saw as a usurpation of the party for more avowedly political and anarchist purposes. They believed that even anarchists are not immune to being satirised, and that for the party to become openly "anarchist" would thus make some area of politics "off limits" to satire. They saw this as an anathema. In addition they saw having a clearly identifiable stance as lessening the party's effectiveness as satirists. Other members however saw no problem with the expression of more openly anarchist viewpoints.


The 1999 election campaign proved a disappointment. The McGillicuddy Serious Party gained only 0.15% of the vote, a considerable drop from its previous performances. Shortly after the election, the party was disbanded, with its leader Graeme Cairns walking around the square in Christchurch in winter with a sign hanging from his neck reading 'I am a liar' while informing people that he was "The only honest politician".

McGillicuddy candidates

A number of former McGillicuddy Serious members went on to stand as candidates for "real" parties, particularly the Greens — Nandor Tanczos and Metiria Turei, both Green MPs, formerly held McGillicuddy Serious membership. Other prominent McGillicuddy candidates from this first generation of McGillicuddy electioneering included founder and Party Leader Graeme Cairns, "Laird of Hamilton"; Mark Servian; KT Julian, a long-time Party Deputy Leader; Adrian Holroyd; Cecil G. Murgatroyd (who subsquently stood against Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke under the Imperial British Conservative Party banner); Sam Buchanan; Steve Richards; Donna Demente; and Penny Bousfield.

Younger pretenders

Some of the party's original members became upset when their lifetime membership was cancelled. In July 2005 a 'McGillicuddy Serious party' put out a press-release announcing plans to participate in the 2005 General election — one initial policy was to replace MPs with harmless jargon-generators. The press release was put out by a former member without the knowledge of the Clan McGillicuddy's senior members and of the McGSP's former leadership.

After intense discussions within the Clan McGillicuddy, no further press releases appeared, no official party was registered, and neither the party nor any candidates appeared on the 2005 ballot.

External links

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