Martin Freeman: Can we do it? Yes we Vatican
HAVE you voted yet? Unlikely, as there are no voting cardinals in the UK.
I'll pin my hopes instead on the 115 blokes in red hats who are doing the business as I write.
Yes, a little late, perhaps, but I have launched my bid to become the next Pope.
You might think that a few things count against me.
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I'm married with two children.
I'm not a cardinal.
I'm not a priest.
I'm not even a member of the Catholic church.
That last bit is a technicality. As a baptised Catholic (so I'm told; as I was a couple of months old my memories are hazy), as far as I know I am still a Catholic whether I like it or not. Once you are in, you are in, unless you are out, of course (but excommunication is reserved only for very bad people; criminal sexual behaviour doesn't count).
The church considers me a lapsed Catholic. My dictionary defines lapsed as "declined from previously high standards". I'm not as good as I used to be, then. That makes me feel guilty. And as a distinguishing feature of all Catholics is an unshakeable sense of guilt, it follows that the guiltier you feel the more Catholic you must be.
I could have been a priest had I stuck on the inside of the club. Being a man, I have a head start.
I needn't worry about being married with kids. Many previous Popes were in that category, including the first, St Peter.
But that's not really the point, is it? I am standing as a joke candidate to bring a note of seriousness.
All proper elections have their bonkers candidates and funny parties. These are an essential part of the democratic process, helping bring a contrast to the proceedings and increasing the otherwise flaky legitimacy of the "proper" candidates.
The Monster Raving Loony Party helped make Liam Fox seem sensible, for example.
The Falkland islanders' referendum on staying British would surely have gained credibility with Argentina if the choices on the voting slip included the alternative, "no, I would like to be considered a penguin".
Joke people do not stand with a realistic hope of getting elected, although sometimes things go wrong. Hartlepool FC's H'Angus the Monkey became the town's directly elected mayor in 2002 and was re-elected in 2005 and 2009.
The Herald's greatest janner poll was packed with joke candidates. One of them won it.
And, closer to the Vatican poll, the Five Star Movement led by a comedian, Beppe Grillo, was the big winner in the Italian elections. Beppe is a joke but not a funny one, on a couple of other counts (rabid rants against same-sex marriage and migration, for starters).
If a man in a monkey costume, and a movement led by a bloke with a conviction for causing death through driving can top polls, why not me?
The lack of a crooked past could count against me. I've never abused children or presided over cover-ups. One pressure group that has campaigned against the scandal of abusive clergy reckons there are only two "clean" candidates among the cardinals in the running to be the next leader of 1.2 billion Catholics.
I can confess – another bit of Catholicism creeping in – that I was once involved in a crooked election, if that counts.
At my school, teachers voted for the head boy. To show the process was open, they kept a chart in the staff room to indicate how the election was going – they cast their vote whenever they felt like it and the tally was updated each day.
A few weeks before we left school for good, the election was going on to choose next year's head. A couple of us, um, gained access to the staff room one Saturday, added in a joke candidate, and gave him a load of votes.
Of course, our scally no-hoper didn't win. But he did come second and was deputy head boy. So either the teachers were stupid or some of them shared our sense of humour.
I've yet to note any stand-up comedians among the conclave of 115. I'll have to appeal to their stupidity instead.
And I'll play on my track record of giving doctrinal opinion. During a religious studies lesson at school, the teacher asked for our comments on a particularly distinctive piece of Catholic doctrine.
I suggested that we were asked to believe it as a test of faith.
The teacher nodded, approvingly. "Go on," he said.
"Well, the idea is, if you believe that, you'll believe anything."
The teacher threw me out of the class. Literally.
That sums up my appeal to the voters.
As for policies, I don't have any. That appears to be another strong selling point in any election today.
Should I be chosen, my first and only decision will be on what name to take. This is a tricky one.
My aim is to have a profile so low that it is below the radar.
But not so low that it becomes a talking point. That happened to police and crime commissioners. I know Tony Hogg's name only because I have been blitzed with media reports about how nobody knows who he is.
So, Pope Dimenticare ("Forgettable") it will be.
I'll spend my Papacy in sad contemplation, not on the decline in influence of the church – joy! – but on the parlous state of democracy.