McGillicuddy Serious Party

McGillicuddy Serious Party
McGillicuddy Serious Party
Leader The Laird of Hamilton, Graeme Cairns
President Paull Cooke
Deputy KT Julian
Founded 1984 (1984)
Dissolved 1999 (1999)
Headquarters None
Ideology Funism
International affiliation Jacobitism
Official colours Red and Green, Tartan
MPs in the House of Representatives 0
Politics of New Zealand
Political parties

The McGillicuddy Serious Party (McGSP) operated as a satirical political party in New Zealand politics during the late 20th century. Between 1984 and 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; and the 1986, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998 Local Body elections;[1] along with various local-body and parliamentary by-elections and even some university student-association elections.[2]

The McGSP gained its highest ever number of votes in New Zealand's last first-past-the-post (FPP) election in 1993, when it stood candidates in 62 out of 99 electorates and received 11,714 votes: or 0.61% of all votes cast.



The McGillicuddy Serious Party was formed in 1984[3] in Hamilton as the political arm of Clan McGillicuddy (established in 1978). Members of the Clan had previously stood as candidates in the 1983 local-body elections in the Waikato,[3] but the McGSP came together in time to contest the 1984 General Election. The party had a strong Scottish theme, with the kilt considered one of the party's symbols. Candidates included a number of street-performers and comedic musical groups, such as The Big Muffin Serious Band.

Challenge for the Crown

After discovering that he had some (rather obscure) relationship to the Stuart pretenders, Clan McGillicuddy in 1979 advanced Bonnie Prince Geoffie the Reluctant as replacement for Queen Elizabeth II.[4] The Clan's armed wing, the McGillicuddy Highland Army (McGHA), attempted to settle the matter by trial by combat, challenging the New Zealand Army to a winner-takes-all pillow-fight; HM's official armed defenders declined the offer. Armed "pacifist" insurrection using harmless weapons having failed, the Clan reluctantly turned to the ballot-box, contesting general elections from 1984 to 1999. The Clan has not totally given up the fight however, as it continues to occasionally battle the loyalist forces of Alf's Imperial Army,[5] a pro-British pacifist-warfare group which supported The Wizard of New Zealand and which promoted McGillicuddy's rival for the silly-vote, the Imperial British Conservative Party. The two armies' most recent battle was on 2 January 2008. [6]

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 ended in a declared draw, with both combatants treated for paper-cuts).

Selecting candidates

At one point the Party selected its electoral candidates through trial by combat, with newspaper swords and water-balloons, the loser of the combat becoming the candidate. 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. Potential candidates for proportional representation (list) seats vied Cinderella-style by trying to fit into labelled shoes.


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"[7] and (superficially) the restoration of a monarchy supposedly based on the Scottish Jacobite line, in the name of Bonnie Prince Geoffie "the reluctant". At a deeper level the Party invoked the political system of Tibetan Buddhism, with "stspm" (singularly transferable spirit possession monarchy) used as justification for the selection of Bonnie Prince Geoffie the reluctant as the undeniable head of the McState. This embodied the principles stated by the ancient Greeks that "no-one who seeks power should be allowed it." Bonnie Prince Geoffie refused consistently and permanently to have anything to do with the authority that this position gave him, and indeed ran for all he was worth and never had anything to do with McGillicuddy Serious ever again, thus proving his indisputable worthiness for the position. Other policies at various times included:

  • Free dung
  • Sending out intelligence agents around the world to wipe New Zealand off published maps, thus ensuring no-one could invade the country.[8]
  • Standing a dog for parliament in the Hobson seat in Northland. Her policies included the abolition of cars, and turning a meat-works into an organic flea-powder factory.[9]
  • The abolition of money: Replacing money with chocolate fish or with sand 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.[10]
  • The diversion of all of NZ aluminium production away from building US military aircraft and missiles in order to build giant space-mirrors to melt the polar icecaps and destroy all of the foolish greed-worshipping cities of man in one stroke, thereby returning man to the sea, which he should never have left in the first place (this the inspiration of the Admiral of the Highland Navy Aaron Franklin).
  • Raising the school leaving-age to sixty-five (after Parliament raised the school leaving-age by one unambitious year)[10]
  • Full unemployment; or (at other times) full employment through slavery[11]
  • Using beer as a National Defence strategy: leaving many bottles of beer on all beaches, so that any invading army would abandon its attack and get drunk instead whilst that the broken bottles would prevent the army advancing any further anyway.
  • 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). The party ran its 1993 electoral advertisements during children's programming.
  • 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, many of them students, felt displeased that both major political parties had deemed free tertiary education unsustainable, but had deliberately lied about their intentions in order to attract votes.
  • Abandoning male suffrage: New Zealand, the first nation to achieve women's suffrage (in 1893), made a big deal of the centenary of this at the time of the 1993 elections.
  • Full hedgehog suffrage: After a goat successfully received nomination in 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 have a reputation as 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 McGillicuddies could not decide on whether native trees should have the option to vote in Māori electorates, whether male trees as well as female trees should vote, and on the status of shrubs.
  • 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.
  • Replacing the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps with Mounted Knights: claimed as more modern. The New Zealand Army's outdated equipment became 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 Soccer World Cup: Both the Labour Party and the National Party used the All Blacks' victory in the 1987 Rugby 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 100 km/h: 50 km/h in Mt Roskill, (Auckland's Bible Belt), because folks there preferred to stay less enlightened.
  • Linking the North Island and South Island: by bulldozing the Southern Alps into Cook Strait.[12]
  • Post-natal abortion: The McGillicuddies would make abortion illegal, but any mother could kill her child up to the age of 18, provided she did it with her own hands. The Party designed this policy to offend all sides in the abortion debate. The fundamentalist Christian Heritage Party used abortion as a major policy.[10]
  • Mandatory homosexuality for 33% of the population — also devised to annoy the fundamentalists.
  • Free castrations
  • Air bags for the New Zealand Stock Exchange (following the 1987 stock market crash)
  • Replacing the Queen's chain with hemp: The Labour Party had a policy of protecting and extending the Queen's chain (publicly-accessible land bordering watercourses), forcing farmers and iwi to allow public access to waterways. Candidate Dominic Worthington proposed replacing the chain with more environmentally-sound hemp; with the Queen, of course, replaced by Prince Geoffie the reluctant. Rather than limiting the chain to protecting water in aqueous form, the King's hemp would also serve to hold together water in solid form, as in the ice in New Zealand's glaciers and Antarctic territory, in particular, the Ross Ice Shelf (alleviating environmentalists' concerns that the ice shelf might collapse and raise sea-levels). Ultimately, McGillicuddy policy envisaged that technology would regress far enough for it to become feasible to lasso water in gaseous form (i.e. clouds).[13]
  • 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).[14]
  • Full employment by carpeting the national highways: This would also save wear and tear on vehicle-tyres
  • 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 mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system, pundits predicted that McGillicuddy Serious might actually win parliamentary representation, but this never happened. When the major parties boycotted the Tauranga by-election 1993 in 1993, the McGillicuddy Serious candidate Greg Pittams, (who appeared in nationwide newspapers during this campaign wearing his "emperors new kilt" outfit, consisting of only a shirt and sporran), finished second to Winston Peters... a very, very distant second. Votes for McGillicuddy presumably most often represented 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 become. 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 and intending to use the party as a vehicle to give anarchist policies a higher public profile. The dichotomy, in essence, grew 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 overdefined anarchist purposes, and felt 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, had little problem with the expression of more openly anarchist viewpoints.

Disbandment and deregistration

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 disbanded and the Electoral Commission officially deregistered it as a political party.[15] Party leader Graeme Cairns marked the event and did penance for the party's election-loss by placing himself in stocks in Garden Place in Hamilton in December 1999 as disgruntled party members pelted him with rotten fruit.[16]

Electoral results

The following table summarises the party's support in general elections from 1990 onwards.

Election Number of electorate votes Share of electorate votes Number of party votes Share of party votes Seats Outcome of election
1990 9,918 0.54% - - 0 National Party victory
1993 11,714 0.61% - - 0 National Party victory
1996 12,177 0.59% 5,990 0.29% 0 National-based coalition government
1999 3,633 0.18% 3,191 0.15% 0 Labour-based coalition government

McGillicuddy candidates

A number of former McGillicuddy Serious members went on to stand as candidates for "real" parties. Co-leader of the Green party, Metiria Turei,[17] formerly held McGillicuddy Serious membership, and stood for Parliament as number 27 on the McGillicuddy's candidate list for the 1999 General Election.[18] Other prominent McGillicuddy candidates from this first generation of McGillicuddy electioneering included founder and Party Leader Graeme Cairns, the "Laird of Hamilton"; Mark Servian; KT Julian, a long-time Party Deputy-Leader; Adrian Holroyd; Cecil G. Murgatroyd (who subsequently stood against Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke under the Imperial British Conservative Party banner);[19] high-performance engineer and Admiral of the McGillicuddy Highland Navy Aaron Lloyd Franklin; Sam Buchanan; Steve Richards; Donna Demente; and Penni Bousfield.

Younger pretenders

Some of the party's original members became upset at the cancellation of their lifetime membership. In July 2005 a "McGillicuddy Serious Party" put out a press-release announcing plans to participate in the 2005 General election — one initial policy involving replacing MPs with harmless jargon-generators.[20] A former member put out the press-release without the knowledge of the Clan McGillicuddy's senior members or of the McGSP's former leadership.

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

One candidate stood under the McGillicuddy Serious banner in the 2008 general election: Steve Richards, who contested the West Coast-Tasman electorate) and received 259 votes.[21] An McGSP member from the Party's early days, Richards had stood as a candidate in previous elections.

Current status

Despite the demise of the McGSP, Clan McGillicuddy still holds regular public events. For example, a pacifist battle in Oamaru on 31 December 2007 saw McGillicuddy "Martians" take on Alf's Imperial Army in an enactment of The War of the Worlds.[22] Youtube hosts a video of this battle.

The Bill and Ben Party emerged as an alternative New Zealand joke political party in 2008. The Bill and Ben Party is different to McGillicuddy in the sense that the 'joke' centers around alcohol use and youthful behaviour as opposed to satire. [23]

See also


  1. ^ New Zealand Election Results
  2. ^ Salient, magazine of the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association, 17 August 1987
  3. ^ a b "10 Years of Taking the Piss" in Metro magazine February 1994
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Angry Clan Wages War on Alf's Army" Evening Post (Wellington) 3 June 1988
  6. ^ "Alfs Beat Martians in Battle" Otago Daily Times 2 January 2008, Page 15
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Capital's Central Candidates Clash" Evening Post (Wellington) 28 September 1990
  9. ^ "McGillicuddy Candidate Has Bone To Pick With Meurant". Northern Advocate (Whangarei) 5 October 1993
  10. ^ a b c Candidate Profiles Daily Post (Rotorua) 27 October 1993
  11. ^ "Electioneering Begins In Jest In Franklin", Franklin County News 3 August 1993
  12. ^ "Serious Party Fun", Johnsonville Independent Herald July 1987
  13. ^ Election policies
  14. ^ "Serious Pledge For Place In The Sun", Dominion (Wellington) 26 August 1986
  15. ^ Scoop: McGillicuddy Serious Announces Deregistration
  16. ^ "Tar for the Memory" Waikato Times (Hamilton) 3 December 1999
  17. ^ Green MP's - Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Members of Parliament
  18. ^ McGillicuddy Serious Party List Announced
  19. ^ Results for Wills
  20. ^ "The Secret Alliance With Labour is Over". 22 July 2005. Retrieved 12 November 2007. 
  21. ^ "Official Count Results -- West Coast-Tasman". 22 November 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2008. [dead link]
  22. ^ "Alfs Beat Martians in Battle" Otago Daily Times 2 January 2008, Page 15
  23. ^ "Bill and Ben putting 'party' into party". NNew Zealand Herald. 11 August 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2008. 

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