27 April 2021

Why a human baked bean is the best option in the Welsh elections

By Ioan Phillips

In news that will surprise no seasoned observer of Welsh politics, Captain Beany, of the New Millennium Bean Party, is running in the Senedd election. Beany has stood multiple times across Wales over the past two decades – with his candidacy either ignored or treated as a joke. Yet from what I’ve seen of this year’s campaign, the New Millennium Bean Party is arguably one of the better options out there.

Beany’s party didn’t issue a traditional manifesto. Instead, it published a photo of a toilet roll. At least we know the cost – roughly 50 pence per roll (if we go on current supermarket pricing for a standard pack of four). This is more than can be said for the Conservatives’ platform, which is perversely impressively in how it manages to avoid any reference at all to funding.

The punchily-written Tory manifesto (coming in at just 39 pages long) proposes freezing council tax and reducing income tax, while also promising big spending increases for education, health, and infrastructure.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that the document is avoiding an unpalatable trade-off. If the party takes office after May, it will have to choose between reducing budgets elsewhere to fund its promised tax cuts or hiking up devolved taxes to make good on some hefty funding commitments.

I’m also a big fan of how the New Millennium Bean Party has a straightforward USP. Sure, glorification of the baked bean is an eccentric aim. However, it’s far clearer as a message than those put out by the Liberal Democrats. Their campaign slogans emphasise supporting local business, addressing climate change, and post-pandemic recovery. All very laudable – yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a mainstream centre-left party that didn’t share such goals.

Another thing in the New Millennium Bean Party’s favour is that it isn’t complacent. Leader Captain Beany has lost his deposit in every election he’s stood in, so the party knows it can’t take any vote for granted. On the other hand, there’s Labour – whose chief, Mark Drakeford, is already thinking about his successor, so confident is he of retaining power.

To top it off, the party is only too keen to brand those who criticise its record as “talking Wales down”. Pointing out economic or educational underperformance isn’t derived from anti-Welsh spite – it’s borne out by the data.

Then we have Plaid Cymru, which speaks of leading the Welsh Government and an independent Wales by 2026. The polls suggest this is hot air of the sort induced by consumption of Captain Beany’s favourite food.

However, say somehow Plaid got its independence referendum and won. No reasonable person would suggest Wales is too poor nor too small to be independent. Nonetheless, Wales would be smaller and poorer than the rump UK state with which it was trying to negotiate a divorce settlement. Brexit underscores that hard power counts. Plaid avoid this hard truth as much as a leguminophobe does a tin of Heinz.

Don’t even get me started on the carpetbaggers of the abolitionist parties, who hate the Senedd so much that they’re standing for election to it. As Captain Beany once said: “They say free democracy, but democracy pays”.

Ultimately, Beany’s party is the only one that doesn’t come with massive downsides – unless you think declaring yourself the human incarnation of baked bean counts. The New Millennium Bean is only running in one constituency, but perhaps scrawling “Beany” across our ballot papers is the only way of telling Wales’ politicians to up their game in the sixth Senedd term.

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Ioan Phillips is a consultant with GK Strategy. He writes in a personal capacity.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.