McGillicuddy Serious Party

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McGillicuddy Serious Party
Leader The Laird of Hamilton, Graeme Cairns
PresidentPaull Cooke
DeputyKT Julian
Founded1984 (1984)
Dissolved1999;25 years ago (1999)
Ideology Funism
International affiliation Jacobitism
ColoursRed and Green, Tartan

The McGillicuddy Serious Party (McGSP) was a satirical political party in New Zealand in the late 20th century. Between 1984 and 1999, it provided "colour" to ensure that citizens not take the political process too seriously. The party's logo, the head of a medieval court jester, indicated its 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 and 1998 Local Body elections; [1] along with local-body and parliamentary by-elections and university student association elections. [2]

It gained its highest number of votes in the last first-past-the-post (FPP) general election in 1993, when it stood candidates in 62 out of 99 electorates and received 11,714 votes, 0.61% of the vote.


The party was formed in 1984 [3] in Hamilton as the political arm of Clan McGillicuddy (established in 1978). Members of the Clan had stood as candidates in the 1983 local-body elections in the Waikato, [3] and the party came together in time to contest the 1984 General Election. It had a strong Scottish theme, with the renaissance of a Jacobite monarchy being one of the party's main policy planks. Candidates included street performers, students, artists and members of musical groups such as the Big Muffin Serious Band.


The party selected its policies on the basis of their absurdity and their impracticality, but also how they tied into an over-arching grand plan. The features of this plan were: Funism (a doctrine of the most fun for the most people), The Great Leap Backwards (returning NZ to a medieval, subsistence, tribal economy) and replacing parliament with a McGillicuddy-style monarchy based on Jacobitism. A non-hereditary monarch would be appointed in a similar manner to that used to determine the Dalai Lama. The high number of NZers with (some) Scottish heritage was the reason given for creating a Jacobite renaissance in the south Pacific. [4]

Policies included:


The party 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[ who? ] predicted that the party might actually win parliamentary representation, but this never happened. When the major parties boycotted the Tauranga by-election 1993 in 1993, the party's candidate Greg Pittams, who appeared in nationwide newspapers during this campaign wearing his "emperor's new kilt" outfit, consisting of only a shirt and sporran, finished second to Winston Peters. Votes for the party 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."[ citation needed ]

The party began to encounter the problem that often appears in joke parties—a debate about exactly how serious it should become. The founders of the party essentially saw it as "a bit of fun", aimed at providing humour and entertainment. This remained a major part of the party. However, later recruits to the party 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. However other members had little problem with the expression of more openly anarchist viewpoints.[ citation needed ]

In the 1996 general election the party put up 65 list candidates, and 45 candidates stood as an electorate candidate. [12]

Disbandment and deregistration

The 1999 election campaign proved a disappointment. The party gained only 0.15% of the vote, a considerable drop. Shortly after the election, the party disbanded and the Electoral Commission officially deregistered it as a political party. [13] Party leader Graeme Cairns marked the event and did penance for the loss by placing himself in stocks in Garden Place in Hamilton in December 1999 as disgruntled party members pelted him with rotten fruit. [14]

Electoral results

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

ElectionNumber of electorate votesShare of electorate votesNumber of party votesShare of party votesNumber of candidatesSeatsOutcome of election
1984 1780.01%--30 Labour victory
1987 2,9900.16%--190Labour victory
1990 9,9180.54%--590 National victory
1993 11,7140.61%--620National majority
1996 12,1770.59%5,9900.29%650National majority
1999 3,6330.18%3,1910.15%640Labour majority
2008 2590.008%--10National majority


By-electionYearCandidate# votes% of votePlacingResult
Tamaki 1992Adrian Holroyd730.42%7th National hold
Tauranga 1993Greg Pittams2712.15%2nd Independent gain
Selwyn 1994Tim Owens260.12%8th National hold
Taranaki-King Country 1998Paul Cooke760.38%11th National hold

McGillicuddy candidates

A number of former members went on to stand as candidates for "real" parties. Former MP and co-leader of the Green party, Metiria Turei, [15] formerly held party membership, and was number 27 on the party list for the 1999 General Election. [16] Other prominent candidates from this first generation of 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); [17] 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 election, one initial policy involving replacing MPs with harmless jargon-generators. [18] A former member put out the press-release without the knowledge of the Clan McGillicuddy's senior members or of the party's former leadership.[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ]

One candidate stood under the McGillicuddy Serious banner in the 2008 general election: Steve Richards contested the West Coast-Tasman electorate and received 259 votes. [19]

A member from the Party's early days, Richards had stood as a candidate in previous elections.

Current status

Despite the demise of the party, Clan McGillicuddy continued to hold regular public events for some time. 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 . [20] YouTube hosts a video of this battle. [21] On 31 December 2013, there was a pacifist battle in Waitati in which the McGillicuddies defended Castle Almond (the castle-like home of one their members) against an "attack" by the local Waitati Militia. [22]

See also

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  2. Salient, magazine of the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association, 17 August 1987
  3. 1 2 "10 Years of Taking the Piss" in Metro magazine February 1994
  4. McGillicuddy Serious Party Manifestos
  5. "Capital's Central Candidates Clash" Evening Post (Wellington) 28 September 1990
  6. "McGillicuddy Candidate Has Bone To Pick With Meurant". Northern Advocate (Whangarei) 5 October 1993
  7. 1 2 3 Candidate Profiles Daily Post (Rotorua) 27 October 1993
  8. "Electioneering Begins in Jest in Franklin", Franklin County News 3 August 1993
  9. "Serious Party Fun", Johnsonville Independent Herald July 1987
  10. "Election policies". Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  11. "Serious Pledge For Place in the Sun", Dominion (Wellington) 26 August 1986
  12. New Zealand Official Yearbook 1997 p62
  13. "McGillicuddy Serious Announces Deregistration | Scoop News".
  14. "Tar for the Memory" Waikato Times (Hamilton) 3 December 1999
  15. "Green MP's – Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Members of Parliament". Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  16. "McGillicuddy Serious Party List Announced | Scoop News".
  17. "Results for Wills". Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  18. "The Secret Alliance With Labour is Over". 22 July 2005. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  19. "Official Count Results – West Coast-Tasman". 22 November 2008. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 7 December 2008.
  20. "Alfs Beat Martians in Battle" Otago Daily Times 2 January 2008, p. 15
  21. Barry, Patrick (2 January 2008). "ALF's Army vs' The Scary Aliens". YouTube . Patrick Barry. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  22. Benson, Nigel (6 January 2014). "Video: Militia mayhem and madness at Waitati". Otago Daily Times . Archived from the original on 18 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.