Northern Ireland

Let's party - DIY politics for the frustrated

Ballot box

Some people stamp their feet in frustration. Pat Vernon decided on something more drastic - he formed a political party.

He had his epiphany moment driving to work.

"I was listening to the radio and Martin McGuinness came on," said the solicitor from Lurgan, County Armagh.

"The big story of the morning was that Gregory Campbell would not say hello to him when they met each other in Stormont.

"Now that just seemed to plumb new depths of nonsense and crystallised the sheer pettiness and inability of our politicians here to interact in a constructive positive way with each other.

"They are all the same; no distinctions between any of them. They all play their petty games and they all just pander to their own constituencies.

"I went and found out how to register a party. A spur of the moment thing just out of frustration after years and years of beating the bonnet of the car every day listening to these people that I just reacted."

And so if you look on the website of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland you will find the Give Our Children a Future Party. Leader: Mr Patrick Vernon. Nominating officer: Geraldine Vernon. A party of two - and they are not alone.

The Commission's Seamus Magee says there are currently 19 political parties indigenous to Northern Ireland, around a dozen of which contest elections.

That leaves another 24 - there are 43 parties in all registered in Northern Ireland, the vast majority of which have their roots in Great Britain.

They have names like Mum's Army; Jury Team and The Common Good which is lead by the Rev Dick Rodgers who describes himself as a "clergyman and non consultant orthopaedic surgeon."

He was brought up in Northern Ireland where his father worked at Queen's University and the Royal Victoria Hospital.

So why did he decide to form a political party?

Electoral Commission

"Because I want our country, the UK, to be a really good influence the world and to shake itself out of the doldrums," he said.

"We're needed on the world scene.

"We're registered in Northern Ireland as well as Great Britain, partly because we didn't want anyone else to use the name the Common Good over there but also because I want Northern Ireland to be part of it.

"I think we privatise too much; I want to sort out the banks; I don't think the banks should be able to create money out of nothing as they're doing at the moment which has lead us into terrible difficulties."

Then there's the You Party which says it means "It's for you the electorate to decide what you want the government or the party to do."

It is led by Bolton man Douglas Bagnall.

He said:"If in in the future we become successful in England Scotland and Wales we need to be able then to go across the water to Northern Ireland to encourage the people over there."

Seamus Magee said you do not need many members to form a political party.

"They need a leader, a nominating officer and they need a treasurer," he said.

"An individual can fulfil all of those three posts and in those circumstances they would just need one other person to be appointed as a campaigns officer.

"They can apply to the Electoral Commission. What we usually find is that we have a pre-meeting where we offer advice and guidance.

"Then there's the one-off registration fee of £150 with an annual fee of £25. And each party must submit quarterly financial returns."

So will Patrick Vernon and the Give Our Children a Future Party make its debut in the Assembly elections?

"The problem is persuading people to get involved and maybe to put up with whatever hassle would come with it," he said.

"It is hard to break through that feeling that there is no point; that people just keep voting for the same people.

"I'm seriously considering it. I'll make that decision in the next week."