The Sketch: It's not metaphorical: these people need an elephant in the room

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The Independent Online

The new politics in action. A friend of mine has a friend who went out for a drink with a parliamentary candidate for one of the three main parties. The next day, the candidate sent her a photograph of his genitals.

She does not want to get dragged into this. I have the name of the candidate but not the photo. Surely it can't be the only time he's practised this form of constituency outreach.

So may I make this unusual appeal to readers of the Sketch. If any of you have been sent a photograph of a parliamentary candidate's genitals, will you kindly forward it to, and we'll see what he has to say about it.

Which party? Is he a conservative with a small C? A democrat with a big D? Or one of Gordon's lot labouring under a massive misapprehension? So far, my lips are sealed.

But now, on to the serious politics. "Go over there! Sit down! Stand up!" The organiser of the Independent Network dealt with his franchise-holders in quite a dictatorial way yesterday, we couldn't help noticing. But they were also quite obedient, for free spirits. One of them turned out to be the whip for the Independent Whip for Cheshire East council. He said he never did anything.

There were 50-odd civilians who got through the checks, and were standing for Parliament, pledging to uphold the Bell principles. There are 15 main ones because Martin Bell portmanteau'd all the Nolan ones in there as well.

They are really the B'Nolanell principles which sounds like a despairing English profanity at all the integrity, selflessness, leadership and objectivity they're supposed to do.

"No professional politicians here!" Martin declared proudly. He said the Network wasn't a machine so much as "a contraption" and that it had no policies, structure or leader. It's not what you'd call politics but that is the point.

There's Denny de la Haye (Hackney South) who's going to share his vote with his 70,000 constituents. He has hair he can sit on and doesn't look like a politician at all. "None of us do," said Paul Edwards.

Paul certainly did, and I said so before asking what his profession was. He's the leader of the Independents on Cheshire council. There is some clever definition of "professional politician" in the Network.

Graeme Quar has his vision, mission and values statement for Meon Valley. "Vote for me, I live next door!"

There's glamour-pants Alice Sakura Dartnell, whose fifth-generation Gravesend voice goes straight to my heart. "Sakura means cherry blossom which is symbolic of Samurai who have to suffer kamikaze," she explained and added: "My mum's Japanese." Vote for Alice! (She'd vote for you.)

Stephane Timdane could get a hall going, I suspect, there's a fire in his eyes when he talks about abolishing the tolls on the Dartford tunnel. And Mike Parsons is standing for Gwyneth Dunwoody's old seat (Crewe and Nantwich) on public services for the vulnerable. "For them or against?" He thought about that and said, "For."

Good luck to them all, but the odds aren't good, even though the independent vote has gone up to 144,000. They need a thing, a visual aid if they are to achieve recall. A white suit isn't enough.

I'd recommend an elephant. They should campaign with elephants. I was going to say a volcano to make it topical but a good volcano isn't portable enough. And there's the lava. But elephants are popular, likeable and transparent. Well, two out of three isn't bad.