Nominations have now closed for candidates in Britain's December 12 general election, which is already shaping up to be one the strangest and least predictable in modern times.
A record number of women are on the ballot, and with 75 MPs standing down — a remarkable figure in a parliament that is little more than two years old — there are plenty of new faces to watch out for.
Brexit will dominate the campaign, and will probably decide the result. But in these extraordinary times — Guy Verhofstadt joked this week that Netflix couldn't hope to compete with British politics — it is not surprising that there are some unusual local battles shaping up.
From Boris to Count Binface — and a French resident who doesn't even want your vote — here are some of the oddest constituency contests to watch out for.
Uxbridge and South Ruislip
If you follow only one constituency on election night, make it t his otherwise undistinguished London suburb where Boris Johnson is trying to defend a 5,034-vote majority from a ferocious campaign by the opposition Labour Party, whose candidate is a 25-year-old Muslim brought up by an Iranian mother in a London council house.
Ali Milani needs a 5% swing to defeat Johnson, which would leave Britain needing another new prime minister — its fourth in three years. But while Britain’s electoral system makes it possible to unseat a sitting prime minister, it has never happened before (Arthur Balfour lost Manchester East in the 1906 landslide but he had already quit Downing Street) and the Conservatives have comfortably held Uxbridge since its inception in 2010.
The leader of the world’s fifth-largest economy must also defeat challenges from Bobby ‘Elmo’ Smith (a fathers’ rights campaigner dressed as the Sesame Street character), Yace ‘Interplanetary Time Lord’ Yogenstein, Count Binface and Lord Buckethead, according to the nominations.
Binface is the alias of comedian Jon Harvey, who has previously stood against former PM Theresa May as Lord Buckethead but was forced to change his identity following a copyright row with the creator of 1984 film Hyperspace, in which Lord Buckethead is a character. However, another candidate is now standing as Lord Buckethead representing the Official Monster Raving Loony Party. “I look forward to both the hustings and to challenging the new 'Lord Buckethead' to take part in a receptacle-to-receptacle debate,” says Binface.
One rival that shouldn't trouble Johnson is William Tobin, whose campaign message begins: “I don’t want your vote.” He is among three million British people living overseas who cannot vote because they have been abroad too long, and says he is standing “to highlight the unfairness".
“Many of us who live in the EU, or planned to, are having our lives churned up by a Brexit decision in which we had no say,” says Tobin, who lives in Brittany. “This isn’t fair, this isn’t democratic. Two and a half million foreign nationals permanently resident in the UK are also unable to vote.”
This historic central England brewery town and solidly Conservative seat is unlikely to change parties in December — but it is definitely changing hands.
Kate Griffiths, the party’s candidate is the estranged wife of the current MP, Andrew Griffiths, who is standing down 18 months after reports that he bombarded two young women with more than 2,000 explicit text messages.
He was cleared of wrongdoing by a parliamentary watchdog that found no evidence he sent the messages while engaged in parliamentary activities, but quit his ministerial post and withdrew his bid for reselection after losing the support of local activists.
Kate Griffiths said her marital difficulties of the last 18 months had taught her resilience.
"My recent personal experiences have given me a much better understanding of domestic abuse issues that can affect women and men from all backgrounds," she says in a statement. "I will be a strong voice for abuse survivors."
Griffiths is in the process of finalising her divorce. "I want to make it clear that I have not sought, nor do I accept Andrew's offer of political support," she says.
Another husband-to-wife handover is on the cards in Dover, where the local MP Charlie Elphicke is an enthusiastic Brexiteer despite the UK Freight Transport Association warning that the Kent port faces years of post-EU border chaos.
Elphicke lost the Conservative whip after being charged with three counts of sexual assault relating to two women, which he denies.
His wife, Natalie, was earlier this month selected as the replacement Conservative candidate and will now defend her husband’s 6,437-vote majority.
The pro-Remain Liberal Democrats are hoping to make gains in and around London with their solid ‘Stop Brexit’ message, but they might struggle in Thurrock, Essex, where their original parliamentary candidate, Kevin McNamara, stood down last week after it emerged he posted a series of offensive tweets, calling a fellow Twitter user a "f*ggot" as well as using the n-word.
“I am deeply sorry for the comments that I made,” he explained, before being replaced at the last minute before nominations closed.
Finchley and Golders Green
The Lib Dems perhaps have better prospects in north London, where Labour’s mixed messages on Brexit could gift the party thousands of pro-Remain votes and possibly unseat some Conservative MPs.
They would need a massive swing to gain Finchley and Golders Green — but could be helped by their candidate, Luciana Berger, who quit Labour in protest at the handling of anti-Semitism allegations. After initially joining the pro-Remain Change UK, she changed parties again, and switched from her original constituency in Liverpool.
Her new battleground, with its large Jewish population, could be her ticket back into parliament as an anti-Brexit MP.
South West Hertfordshire
Another London suburb, another political psychodrama caused by Brexit. This solidly Conservative seat was held by David Gauke until he became one of 21 MPs expelled from the party for voting against Boris Johnson.
The Conservatives have already selected their official replacement candidate, Gagan Mohindra, but Gauke — a highly regarded former minister — announced last week that he would stand again as an independent.
“The easy thing to do would be to go quietly but I feel that I have to make a stand and make the case that we are heading towards an outcome that we will deeply regret,” he explains.
Independent candidates rarely win parliamentary seats unless like-minded opponents stand aside, but the Liberal Democrats have pledged they will still contest in South West Hertfordshire.
Nevertheless, his reputation as a safe pair of hands in government — in a crisis, Downing Street would shout ‘Uncork the Gauke’ — could give him a personal vote boost and cause an embarrassing upset for Johnson.
Meanwhile, among his rivals is Green Party candidate Tom Pashby, one of a record-breaking nine non-binary or trans candidates at this general election.
This marginal seat will give a good indication of who is likely to win control of the House of Commons. But if the Conservatives can hold onto Stafford, it will also mark the election of the third member of the Rees-Mogg dynasty.
Their candidate, Theodora Clarke, is the niece of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former hedge fund manager and lynchpin of Johnson's government whose accent and mannerisms earned him the nickname "the honourable member for the 18th century." Jacob Rees-Mogg's sister, Annunziata, was elected in May as a Brexit party MEP for the East Midlands.
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
Where the rust-belt of Teesside meets the North Yorkshire Moors lies the constituency of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.
It is not an area associated with European nobility, but that could change on December 12 as Labour's candidate is listed on the ballot paper as "Lauren Louise De Thibault de Boesinghe (Commonly known as Lauren Dingsdale)."
De Thibault de Boesinghe is a noble Flanders family boasting a coat of arms and links to Belgian aristocracy.
"I got married in June, that's where it comes from," she explains to her local paper, the Middlesborough Gazette. "I've tried to Google translate the Wikipedia page about it and apparently its something to do with royalty — but it's just one of those things."
She insists she is the third generation of her family to live in the area. "My granddad was a fitter and turner during the war and my grandma worked in the factories as well. I've had a lucky upbringing. I went to good schools and I've had a very stable life with my grandparents, my mum and stepdad. But I've never had tea with the Queen of Belgium."