Election `97: Spoof paper claims election cancelled

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Thousands of bewildered commuters were handed copies of a spoof newspaper, Evading Standards, a parody of the London Evening Standard, last night.

The paper, produced by a group calling itself the propaganda wing of Reclaim the Streets, announced "General Election cancelled - Election collapses as new polls reveal massive public cynicism".

However, the first issue of Evading Standards never made it to the streets after all 20,000 copies were impounded by police and three distributors arrested. They were charged with incitement to cause affray and obstruction.

Yesterday, more than 20 volunteers handed out 20,000 copies of the second issue at Underground and mainline stations throughout the capital. The eight-page special included articles purporting to expose the fallacy of the free market and the death of democracy. The detailed parody also mimicked many of the advertisements running in the original - including a twist on a Labour slogan: "Britain deserves better - than politicians."

The group producing it claims to be the propaganda wing of Reclaim the Streets, which itself claims to be more left-wing than communists. Supporters of the radical organisation were heavily involved in protests against the Newbury bypass in Berkshire and the extension to the M11.

According to a spokesman for the paper, its aim was to send-up the banality of the election, and to emphasise that "the fallacy that passes for a democracy is not the only avenue for people who want to make a real difference to society". He said production of the paper had been shrouded in secrecy for fear of action, either by the police or the Evening Standard.

The Evening Standard refused to comment last night.