Election Fever

31 03 2010

As General Election fever sweeps over the town of Stornoway it is perhaps timely to have a look back at one of the great Stornowegian General Election Campaigns of the past.

The one that springs most readily to mind is that of 1825, when an unlikely local character was returned to Westminster with a sweeping majority.

Back in these dark days, the island was troubled by the infamous outlaw Mac An t-Stronaich. This character carried out a campaign of terror across moor and mountain, robbing travellers, murdering tourists, refusing to pay his Council Tax and stealing sheep. No one was safe from Mac An t-Stronaich and his reign of terror began to impact on the local economy.

The local populous tried all sorts of ways of getting rid of him, but no matter what cunning schemes were put in place, the wily outlaw always managed to avoid the long arm of the law and keep the hangman at bay. Mac An t-Stronaich always seemed to be one step ahead of the local constabulary, free to continue his evil ways from his top secret hide-out at the mouth of the River Creed.

The people of Stornoway were at their wits end. With their economy falling down around their ears and with Mac An t-Stronaich growing bolder by the day, there seemed to be no easy way out.

However, as all hope of a solution was fading, an emergency meeting of the Town Council came up with a wild idea.  It was tentatively suggested that the forthcoming General Election might offer a suitable way out of the problem. What if Mac An t-Stronaich was selected as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate? What if everyone on Lewis was encouraged to vote for him? What if he won?

The Town Councillors immediately saw a glimmer of hope with this suggestion. If Mac An t-Stronaich was somehow elected to Westminster, the lure of MP’s expenses would mean he may never trouble the Isle of Lewis again.

And perversely, the Constituency had a vacancy for an Member of Parliament as Mac An t-Stronaich had recently murdered the previous incumbent.

Unbeknownst to Mac An t-Stronaich, his cross was cunningly forged on the Nomination Papers and sent off to Dingwall for processing. He was registered as standing as a candidate for the SNP (“Stronich, Not Politicians”) Party. After a few weeks it was confirmed that he was accepted as a Candidate. A very worried Town Councillor was dispatched to Mac An t-Stronaich’s secret River Creed hideout to tell the outlaw the news. The outlaw listened intently to the Councillor as he explained the potential gains to be made as an MP and after only a few moments of contemplation agreed to stand.

The wheels of the Campaign Machine went into action right away. Mac An t-Stronaich Campaign Coach spent the next few weeks criss-crossing the island, stopping off at Village and Church Halls to hold meetings and rob people. Posters appeared all over the town (“Fleekeen Well Vote For Me and I Wont Kill Ya”) and whole page adverts were taken out in the Stornoway Gazette (“Vote Mac An t-Stronaich and You Might Get Your Fleekeen Sheep Back”).

The campaign also featured many other memorable campaign slogans, such as the one used in the Ness District “Never Had It So Guga”.  Anti Mac Ant-Stronaich campaigners had their own memorable sloggan “Macy Macy Macy, Out Out Out”.

On Election Night a huge crowd turned out at the Town House on Cromwell Street to hear the result. The Returning Officer took the platform and to rapturous applause announced that Mac An t-Stronaich had won the seat with a thumping 95% of the vote. Mac An t-Stronaich them proceeded to thump the Returning Officer.

The next day, the same crowd turned out to see the new MP off on his journey to Westminster. Thousands of people lined the pier as the mail boat sailed away, all waving and cheering.

Mac An t-Stronaich took politics in his stride and although he only served one term, was a surprisingly effective MP. He reached the lofty position of Secretary of State for Rural Affairs (due to all of the previous post-holders meeting unexplained and untimely ends) and campaigned tirelessly to abolish Capital Punishment. However, following an unfortunate incident involving an overly sharp tarasgeir and the Speaker of The House, Parliament had enough of him and he was pensioned off with an Ambassadorship to a minor European Principality called Ferrero Rocher. Unfortunately Mac An t-Stronaich was allergic to chocolate and he soon returned to Lewis to resume his banditry.

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