A man in a monkey suit becomes mayor of an English town.

A man in a monkey suit becomes mayor of an English town.

A man in a monkey suit becomes mayor of an English town.

What the foreign papers are saying.
May 3 2002 2:26 PM

Mayoral Monkey Business

"It could have been a lot worse" was the verdict on Thursday's English local elections. Thanks in part to a "Le Pen effect"—whereby voters who may not have gone to the polls did so having seen how low turnout helped Jean-Marie Le Pen move to the final round of voting in France's presidential race—the ruling Labor Party did better than they had expected. Although Labor lost 339 council seats (it previously held 2,741) and lost control of eight councils (leaving it in control of 63 of the country's 174), the Times' analysis concluded, "[T]he Labour Party will be relieved, even surprised at the outcome. They entered the election campaign with all the hope of a man on death row who has been served his last cheeseburger."

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As in the French elections, fringe candidates did well. The far-right British National Party, described by the sober Financial Times as a "fascist party," won three seats in the northwest town of Burnley, which endured race riots last year, but higher-than-expected turnout (though it was still pretty dismal at 34 percent nationally) kept the BNP off other councils. In the northeast town of Middlesborough, a disgraced cop, who according to the Times is "credited with bringing US-style, zero-tolerance policing to Britain," was elected mayor. He was fired earlier this year when he admitted he failed to pursue drug allegations against officers in his force, but he polled 60 percent of the first-round votes.

Hogging the headlines—and the puns—however, is Stuart Drummond, the new mayor of Hartlepool, who won election after campaigning in the guise of his role as H'Angus Monkey, Hartlepool United soccer club's mascot. Although he canvassed as a 7-foot furry creature, he will serve his constituents in a business suit. According to the Daily Mirror, he stood on a platform of "handing bananas to local schoolchildren." (The paper also explained how a monkey became Hartlepool's mascot: "Legend has it among the people of the North-East town that their forefathers hanged a monkey in the market place after mistaking him for a French spy during the Napoleonic Wars.") The Independent revealed that his victory may be costly for bookies who originally offered odds of 100-1 on an H'Angus victory. The Independent also reported that "H'Angus's pitch-side persona has courted controversy which has resulted in him being ejected from two away grounds—once for allegedly simulating sex with a female steward at Scunthorpe in November 2000, the second for acting improperly with an inflatable doll at Blackpool 12 months ago."

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.