Story: Political parties

McGillicuddy Serious Party

Animating the party's major policy: a 'great leap backwards', this 1996 television advertisement for the McGillicuddy Serious Party shows its energetic, anarchic and theatrical approach to political debate. Founding McGillicuddies met on a university campus in the 1970s and became politically active in the early 1980s, when McGillicuddy 'laird' Graeme Cairns stood for the Hamilton mayoralty. By then similar groups around New Zealand had sprung up and were affiliating with each other, and in 1984 the McGillicuddy Serious Party was set up to contest the general election held that year. Jumping from 1984's three candidates (all in Hamilton), to 17 in 1987, the McGillicuddies, wrote laird Cairns, had 'pushed our quirky political raft from the shores of obscurity out into the mainstream', complete with manifesto, policies, allies and a campaign launch. The party's best election result was that of 1993, when it stood candidates in 62 of the 99 electorates and persuaded nearly 12,000 people to vote for them (0.16% of the total vote). The McGillicuddy Serious Party disbanded after the 1999 elections.

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How to cite this page:

Jennifer Curtin and Raymond Miller, 'Political parties - Small parties of the 1980s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 5 October 2023)

Story by Jennifer Curtin and Raymond Miller, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 21 Jul 2015