By Jenny Matthews
Most of us are fairly familiar with the manifesto promises of the main parties. But politicians are not all the same. To prove it, here are some eye-catching policies you may have missed.
Howling Laud Hope - wants the Loch Ness monster declared an endangered species
Keen to get potholes filled in? Want socks to be sold in packs of three? Or perhaps you would like to register a protest vote - or even change the parliamentary system altogether? Then one of the smaller parties may be for you...
If you're concerned about the rights of zombies, there is the Cure (Citizens for Undead Rights and Equality) Party, which has among other "undeadly serious" campaign messages: "Zombies, like students, are people too. Let's fight for their rights to politically party."
Its manifesto, published on the party's website, includes:
• Give the undead equal rights to the living
• Make cemeteries more comfortable for their inhabitants
• Implement a robust social integration programme for the undead, curing society of its prejudices
• Increase the minimum statutory retirement age to beyond death
• Permit marriages of the living and the undead
It is standing in four constituencies -
Hitchin & Harpenden,
- which it says is "literally a start. And it means we can comfortably share a table at the Houses of Commons".
Captain Beany of The New Millennium Bean Party - slogan, "Out with Brown, in with Orange" - has high hopes of capturing plenty of floating and first-time voters in
with his mixture of serious and frivolous "beanyfesto" pledges.
Along with proposals on the environment, health, the economy and defence, he has a range of unusual eye-catching plans:
• Chewing gum to be collected from pavements and used to fill potholes in the road
• Children who leave home should not be allowed to return until they are 40
• Convicted drink drivers to have their cars painted bright orange for five years when they finish their ban and return to the wheel
• Public officials who are convicted of abuse of office to have their pictures printed on toilet roll packaging.
Captain Beany has been standing in general elections for years and has not yet kept his deposit - but this time around he is "ever so confident" because so many voters are disenchanted with the main parties.
"I've seen the future and the future's bright," he says.
There are several ideas about how to fill in potholes
The Church of the Militant Elvis and Bus-Pass Elvis Party also have a pledge on potholes - and on moats.
Campaigner Dave Bishop, aka Lord Biro, has now stood in three general elections and is standing in
because he feels the town "needs brightening up".
Some of his campaign policies include:
• Fancy a moat around your house to keep out randy footballers?
• Bono for Pope
• Turn public schools into pound shops
• Save public lavatories from extinction
• Fill in the potholes
• All shook-up about dog-muck everywhere? Bring back the dog licence.
The Monster Raving Loony Party - currently the Monster Raving William Hill Loony party, after a sponsorship deal with the bookies - is fielding several candidates this year.
Monster Raving Loonies: Three badgers better than three lions
Leader Howlin 'Laud' Hope was out campaigning in
(where his rivals include David Cameron) when the BBC News website spoke to him.
Pledges he was campaigning on included "joining Europe in a big way" - by inviting the other European countries to join the pound sterling and then making the entire UK a European offshore tax haven.
He is also pledging a 99p coin to save on change (this was also a pledge last time around in 2005, but "no-one noticed it then, so we're still shouting about it now").
Other Monster Raving Loony manifesto suggestions - individual candidates can pick from an extensive list or choose their own - include:
• All socks to be sold in packs of 3 as a precaution against losing one
• Make it illegal for superheroes to use their powers for evil
• Ban all terrorists from having beards as they look scary
• Change the English symbol of three lions to 3 badgers
• School dinners must be regularly checked for radioactivity
• Add the Loch Ness Monster to the endangered species list
• Dedicated pogo stick lanes on routes to centres of work
Howlin 'Laud' Hope says he has had a "wonderful" reaction in Witney so far and hopes to keep his deposit - but on the other hand, the party says if you get that many votes you are obviously "not loony enough", so you have to leave.
Anyone baffled by this array of pledges might want to try a party that cheerfully admits it "hasn't got any", because it is a protest vote.
The NOTA (None of the Above) Protest Vote movement is standing - officially as independents - in
Waveney candidate Louis Barfe says a vote for him is a last resort; when people want to vote, but none of the candidates appeals.
"With NOTA standing, they have an option to register their dismay and disaffection," he says.
In the unlikely event of him getting in, his one policy would be to force a by-election within six months - in which he would not stand.
"The problem with politicians is not what they promise, it's what they deliver," he said.
"So by promising to deliver nothing, I'm the best man for the job I don't want."
Similarly the "No Candidate Deserves My Vote" party is standing in
A few candidates want a "none of the above" option on ballot papers
It has one policy: "We seek to put a "None of the above" option on every local and general election ballot paper for all time."
Thus the disaffected voter can turn out and make a protest vote.
Sole candidate Steve Phillips of Stevenage does not expect to get in, and says if he does he expects his tenure to be fairly short-lived - once he has got the Electoral Commission to make sure the "none of the above" box is on ballot papers, he can stand down.
However, he promises, he would also be a conscientious representative for the people of Stevenage at the same time.
Not quite radical enough? Andy Kirkwood of the Movement for Active Democracy (MAD), who is standing in
would like to do away with the current system of government altogether.
What about referendums on major issues like smoking bans?
He would still have MPs discussing things, he explains, but if a large enough group of, say, 500,000 people decided they wanted to stop a certain government proposal, the issue would have go to a referendum and could then be halted whether the government liked it or not.
Equally, if a group of 500,000 wanted a change to a policy such as the smoking ban, they could then trigger a referendum. And if their change was approved, it would have to be adopted by the government.
"I have no manifesto," he says.
"I am not telling you what you're going to get, I'm asking you what you want."
There are also plenty of single issue campaigners or parties seeking to make their own serious point at the election. One that is standing again this time with an easily understandable message is Animals Count.
It is standing in the
Islington South and Finsbury
Although it has policies on mainstream issues such as the minimum wage, banking and the environment, its key policies focus on animal welfare, and include among others:
• Eliminate animal experimentation
• Redirect subsidies from livestock and fisheries farming to plant-based agriculture
• Phase out farming practices with poor welfare consequences for animals
• Establish an "NHS for animals"
• Act on the known link between animal abuse and domestic violence, with increased penalties for those convicted of animal cruelty
"Animal and environmental issues are at the heart of society..." it says.
"Animal issues are part and parcel of the economy, environment, education and other topics and not a fringe or single issue."
Or there is the Peace Party, which is standing in three constituencies:
Veteran campaigner John Morris explains that their overriding point of view is that they do not want "any war of any kind ever again" - and most of their policies stem from this.
Their 10-point manifesto explains where they stand on issues such as economic recovery, immigration ("no restrictions to the movement of people around the world", but also trying to remove the factors "tending to push people away from their homes") and taxation.
"We envision a far more peaceful country, where people can better demonstrate their care and compassion towards others, where there is far more social justice and where we care more for our surroundings, both natural and man-made," the party says.
Have you seen any eye-catching policies that we've missed? Add your comment using the form below:
I love the idea of drink drivers having their cars painted bright orange, I suggest possibly in dayglow paint?
Emma, St Andrews, UK
How many people have heard about a guy called None Of The Above, who changed his name by deed poll before declaring he was standing for parliament (in the Chingord & Woodford Green constituency, against the Tories' Iain Duncan Smith)?
The only snag is, on the ballot his name will show up as 'Above, None of the'. Which kind of ruins the effect, doesn't it?
Does anyone remember 'The Freedom From Acne Party'? Their only manifesto policy was to use the UK GDP to find a cure. I suppose to get elected, teenage boys would have to be allowed the vote. The acne probably cleared up of its own accord - hence the party is no-more.
My favourite ever Monster Raving Loony policy was from a campaign in Belfast in the eighties: more street corners for the kids to hang about on.
Mad Cap'n Tom is running for seats in the City of London and Westminster, his policies include tax free rum, free duct tape for each home to fix broken Britain, and the apple ipad to be renamed the Ipatch.
Martin McAuley, a student candidate in North Belfast had a brilliant poster 'Tough on Crime... Tougher on women drivers'.
Looks like the MRL Party have lost the plot.. Their policies make perfect sense to me.
How about an "I Don't Give A Damn" party - and force all those MPs with a safe seat (like my own MP) that will never be lost - to join and give up their party allegiances. They would then be true Independents and can vote outside of the party Whips. But they might take the new party name a bit too seriously!
Rod, Dorking, Surrey
There is the big one that you missed: Over the past year, political activist and comedian Mark Thomas has been running a "People's Manifesto" show whereby we the public actually get to choose our manifesto policies. Mark has actually raised funds to put up a candidate in Bristol West (Danny Kushlick). For a list of the ten policies, visit http://thepeoplesmanifesto.org.uk/manifesto/
One of our candidates in Welwyn Hatfield wants to turn our derelict outdoor swimming pool into a submarine base.
The 99p coin is a total work of genius, you got my vote. I'm gonna be howling all the way to the ballot box m'laud.