Opinion

Count Binface: 'The British people will be watching you, Keir Starmer'

The intergalactic space warrior is hoping to draw attention to British democracy itself by running against Rishi Sunak

Image: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Greetings, Earthlings! It is a galactic honour for me, Count Binface, to be invited to contribute again to the hallowed pages of Big Issue, my favourite Earth magazine by a country light year. This article will be reaching you in election week, when United Kingdom voters will be casting their verdict upon the last five years of Conservative government. Just as Bucks Fizz once sang at Eurovision, it’s making your mind up time. And just like many a Brit at Eurovision, the Conservatives have been flirting with nul points. 

Is anyone surprised? After three prime ministers, four chancellors, Partygate, Tractorgate, Lettucegate and so much more, if a country doesn’t give the ruling party a kicking with that kind of record, it never will.  

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This has been my third general election battle against a serving prime minister, and one of the questions I get asked most frequently is: Why? Well, for starters I’m an intergalactic space warrior with dominion over multiple quadrants, so I’m hardly likely to challenge a nobody like a Shapps, a Rees-Mogg or a Truss. For us aliens, the cliché is true: take us to your leader… so we can see how rubbish they are. 

But there are other reasons too why I stand. For one thing, I’ve been at a loose end, and I like visiting Earth on my holidays. For another, I have a unique ability unmatched by the ‘main’ parties to offer a manifesto which lasers in on voters’ chief concerns. Who else is offering to make water bosses take a dip in British rivers, turn any shop that plays Christmas music before December into a public library, or build at least one affordable house? None of them, that’s who.  

But there’s something even more important than my wondrous policies. I hope that my presence in the general election helps at least a bit to draw attention to British democracy itself. This age-old institution has taken quite the battering over the last few years, not least when a certain Mr Johnson prorogued parliament and nearly brought the whole thing crashing down. 

Despite that fiasco, British democracy remains mercifully intact and there is something miraculous about its unique openness to allow literally any citizen to stand for election, no matter how ridiculous their get-up or crazy their platform. (I’m not naming names.) 

In 2024 half of all humans on the planet are going to the polls in elections. And the UK system, for all its flaws, remains the best of the lot. For the prime minister of the day to have to stand on a stage, in a local sports hall, alongside the likes of me – and also some bizarre novelty candidates like the Liberal Democrats – is a great leveller. It might even be the great leveller.  

And you know what? In my experience of meeting British prime ministers face-to-Binface, they get it. I’m not saying that a photo op with a Recyclon in battle armour has ever been top of their to-do list. But when I’ve met Mrs May, Mr Johnson and Sadiq Khan, they’ve all been courteous and polite. They know power when they see it. They also understand the strange quirks and quarks of British democracy, and they know deep down that in its own bizarre way, the sight of weird and wonderful characters is a message to the world and beyond that, whatever you think of the UK, Brits are still free, and they know how to laugh at themselves. It’s a right. And for me it’s a privilege. 

I’m writing this piece before my showdown with Rishi, so I can’t report back to you about meeting him, but I’d like to think he’ll be equally civil on the big night as his predecessors have been. Ultimately, whatever colour rosette you wear, in my experience everyone wants the same things: grace, civility, and affordably priced croissants. 

As for Sir Keir Starmer, when he gets the keys to Number 10, he needs to know two important facts. One: the front door only opens from the inside, so the keys are useless. And two: the British people will be watching. You are the servant of the people. And when the next general election rolls around, millions of them – and one Recyclon space warrior – will be there to hold them to a Count. 

As for what’s next for me, I refer you back to the start of this article. Eurovision! It’s got to happen, right? Sam Ryder made it to the runner-up spot with his song Space Man. Imagine what the UK could do with an actual space man. The sky’s the limit! (Or at least 17th place.) I hereby put my lid officially in the ring. Bring it on. 

Peace and galactic love, 

CB x 

Count Binface is on the cover of election week’s Big Issue magazine.
Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare

Who is Count Binface?

Who exactly is Count Binface? There’s more to the intergalactic election crusader than just the silly costume. Binface is the alter ego of comedian and writer Jon Harvey. Among his many credits, he’s a regular guest and contributor on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live, a longstanding writer on satirical staple Have I Got News for You and notably also pens the knowingly smug intros on Only Connect. As Binface and beyond, Harvey is steering pointed mockery that our political system is so ripe for. Catch Binface on his debut comedy tour later this year.

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