Mx Monroe, who is expected to run in the general election, will be a very different kind of candidate from Nigel Farage, who has ruled out standing for the eight time
Perhaps there is something to be cheerful about in UK politics after all. Within 24 hours of Nigel Farage’s announcement that he would not be polluting the campaign with his presence, we also learnt that Jack Monroe will stand as an independent.
Mx Monroe, a writer and activist who is gender non-binary, is going to be a fascinating candidate to watch. “I know having a working-class tattooed sweary prick with 4 1/2 GCSEs talking about the economy unsettles some of you. So I’m gonna carry on,” she* tweeted.
The stated aim is not to win a parliamentary seat – having been approached about safe seats Monroe will be running for one of those in Southend, where she has spent almost her whole life, “to represent my neighbours, my community, the people who literally fed me when I was hungry”. Instead the plan is to talk about the issues that, as a single mother who has previously relied on food banks, she feels strongly about.
“I don’t expect to get in – I do good maths and follow politics – but I would like to raise the voices of those who feel that they can’t,” she said. Another tweet said that the idea was “to gently listen, to do the best I can for the most people.” (She may be being coy here however, since anyone who follows UK politics can think of at least one recent example of a candidate who was nominated to talk about the issues and ended victorious.)
Inevitably, you worry for someone who has previously had a breakdown and only recently faced down the ultimate Twitter troll in the libel courts. Many of the comments on a BBC News post about her candidacy focused on her hair (perhaps, like Votes For Women, they feel jealous of the impressive volume. Batiste?). But the candidate pledged to run a clean campaign: “My focus is on my community, not personal digs at my ‘opponents’.”
There is something brave in her candidacy – with no party behind her, no PPE degree, none of the automatic acceptance that comes with being a middle-aged man who was born on the right side of the tracks.
And it begs the question: why don’t we have more independents? Those with a PPE degree will tell you it’s because collectivism gets things done. But it also causes a whole heap of problems when your club turns out to contain people with radically different views. If we took the tribal elements out of politics, perhaps there could be better representation of what people actually think and need.
Whatever happens next, as the first non-binary candidate in a general election Monroe blew seven-time candidate Farage (“It would be a very easy win for me,” said his Telegraph announcement, improbably) out of the water as the most interesting thing to happen on Thursday.
In the current climate it seems unlikely that we will replace all the immigrant-hating former bankers with gentle listeners one by one. What Monroe seems to be saying is that it’s worth trying anyway, because the act of trying has value.
*We’ve read news articles that say “she”, some that say “they” and a few that tie themselves in knots trying to avoid pronouns, but unless anyone has an update we are choosing to be guided by what Monroe told the Guardian last summer.