Written by Grace Redhead
Ex-YUSU president Tom Scott, whose successful pirate-themed campaign in 2009 resulted in a record turnout, is aspiring to higher things in this year’s general election. Under the name “Mad Cap’n Tom” and armed with an eyepatch, suitable pirate vocabulary and Brian the stuffed duck, he is running as an independent for the Cities of London and Westminster. Scott faces heavy competition in the constituency, a safe Conservative seat where the incumbent Mark Field has been in office since 2001. In Scott’s own words, “it be takin' a bloody miracle fer anyone t'get elected who not be wearin' a blue rosette”.
His take on the weighty issues preoccupying Brown, Cameron and Clegg include suggestions on fixing broken Britain (“A free roll of duck tape sent t’all homes”), that all schoolchildren be trained in swordsmanship and gunnery (“Half of ‘em be knowin’ how t’use a knife already, this be not a stretch”) and a requirement for Apple to rename the iPad in the UK (“New name: the iPatch”).
He is not the only ex-YUSU president to be running this year – James Alexander, and a Councillor for Holgate Ward for the past three years, is the Labour candidate for the newly-formed constituency of York Outer with no obvious pirate leanings.
The Yorker caught up with Mad Cap’n Tom on the campaign trail to get the inside scoop on the fringiest of 2010’s fringe campaigns.
Why did you decide to run?
I ran because I lost a bet. Me and a friend were in a pub in Leeds, and over the course of the night it turned out we both had ideas that the stupid sections of our brains liked, but the smarter sections were stopping us. Then we argued about who'd win the Superbowl, and, well, whoever lost the bet got the smarter sections of their brain overruled...
Are you bringing anything you learnt from your time campaigning at YUSU to your campaigns?
Other than the general theme? Not really! I think I'd be running this just the same if I'd never gone for the YUSU position...
How, if at all, do you think your stint as YUSU president has better equipped you for this?
I'm glad you put the "if at all" there. This is the complete opposite of student-presidential work: this is just trying to make people laugh!
You stand little chance of being elected this year, but do you hold genuine hopes of being in parliament one day?
Bloody hell no. Student government was bad enough, I shudder to think what it's like when you can actually make a difference to the world.
What political issues rile you?
It's quite difficult to rile me about politics. If it was, I suspect I wouldn't be doing this...
What subject did you study at York?
Linguistics as my undergrad, and Educational Studies as my postgrad. So I'm basically unemployable.
Do you find it easy to make the switch between pirate and normal speak now?
No - the trouble is, me hearty, it be too easy. Occasionally I be findin' meself automatic'ly answerin' non-piratey emails wi' this accent...
What do you think of James Alexander running?
Here's a funny thing: the very first time I thought about running in the General Election was back in York about a year ago, when there was a rumour that an election might get called early. I forget who I was talking to, but the codename "Operation Irritate James Alexander" was suggested. In the previous days, if I remember rightly, he'd been trying to hitch the Labour wagon to a campaign that we were running, and I was having none of it.
(Over the course of last year we managed to annoy each other, usually by accident, several times.)
I'd never run in York, though. Not because of James - but because introducing an unstable element into a marginal constituency like York Outer could, in the worst case, actually affect the result!