Millwall and Blackburn fans contest election

Millwall - Willow Winston

An election that has been otherwise tedious (so far) is enlivened by two candidates representing fans of Millwall and Blackburn Rovers, contesting otherwise safe Labour constituencies.

In Lewisham East, the candidate is a 72-year-old female artist, Willow Winston: not exactly the Millwall stereotype! Her campaign is prompted by a very dodgy relationship between the local Labour establishment and an offshore company behind the ‘New Bermondsey’ regeneration scheme, which threatened Millwall’s stadium The Den. The scheme is already under scrutiny by an independent inquiry under Lord Dyson, former Master of the Rolls.

While in Blackburn candidate Duncan Miller represents the long-running ‘Stop Venkys’ movement, opposed to the Indian poultry dynasty (a sort of subcontinental KFC) who took over Blackburn Rovers in 2010. The once proud Lancashire club – Premier League champions as recently as 1995 – was recently relegated to the third tier of English football.

Venkys' ownership of Blackburn Rovers has been a disaster from day one.

Venkys’ ownership of Blackburn Rovers has been a disaster from day one.

There are a couple of precedents for football fans engaging in electoral politics to air grievances concerning their local clubs.

At the 1999 Hamilton South by-election, Stephen Mungall saved his deposit with 1,075 votes (5.5%) on a platform Hamilton Accies Home, Watson Away. (The local club Hamilton Academicals was at the time homeless, having sold its stadium in 1994, and many fans blamed major shareholder Jim Watson.)

This campaign predated the Electoral Commission and associated legal requirements for parties to register their names and descriptions – so the Accies candidate was able to stand as an independent and put the above description on the ballot paper.

That option is not available for this year’s Millwall and Blackburn candidates, who will appear just as ‘Independent’ on the ballot paper and will have to rely on their campaign literature and publicity to make an impression on voters.

One group of fans did manage to register their own party just over a decade ago. The Seagulls Party was created by fans of Brighton & Hove Albion to campaign against their local council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a new stadium. Edward Bassford of the Seagulls Party polled 21.9% in a Lewes council by-election in August 2006. The following year the party effectively won its campaign, when central government overturned the local council’s decision and stadium development went ahead. Long since dissolved, the Seagulls Party saw its ultimate triumph with Brighton’s promotion to the Premier League this year.

P.S.:
An H&D reader reminds us that in 1987 the well-known Portsmouth football ‘firm’ 6.57 stood a general election candidate in Portsmouth South. Marty ‘Docker’ Hughes polled 455 votes (0.8%).  ‘Docker’ Hughes died in July 1992: friends have ever since sponsored a memorial race at Fontwell Park and (latterly) Goodwood.

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