Britain has something of a penchant for novelty candidates in its elections. We’re regularly treated to the sight of the 6000 year old Recyclon leader wearing a bucket on his head - Count Binface - standing next to some important luminary from a more mainstream political party.

Here’s a classic, courtesy of Reuters, from one time our disgraced ex-Prime Minister won his seat back in 2019.

Boris Johnson standing next to other candidates including Elmo and Count Binface

Fun fact - Count Binface used to be Lord Buckethead, before some earthbound copyright got in the way.

Anyway, entirely unrelated to the Count or Sesame Street, the Brighton Pavilion ballot is an interesting one this year.

List of general election candidates for Brighton Pavilion

First off there’s a classic entry by a candidate for the Official Monster Loony Raving Party, a 42-year old party founded by Screaming Lord Sutch.

“Vote for insanity” is their slogan, which admittedly doesn’t greatly distinguish them from several of their opponents. In fact some of their policies seem a little more sensible and realistic than what we currently live with on a daily basis: “We will send all MPs who misbehave to Rwanda”, “NHS…We will reduce hospital waiting lists by using a smaller font.”

But, new for 2024 as far as I know, one of the candidates is literally - as opposed to the more typical figuratively - inhuman: “AI Steve”. As you might guess from “his” name, AI Steve is basically an artificial intelligence style chatbot.

Apparently this collection of 1s and 0s is going to be the ultimate “by the people, for the people” candidate. For starters, you can chat to it 24 hours a day. NBC shares a screenshot of the experience.

Screenshot of someone chatting to AI Steve online

After that, “all inputs are summarised and outputted into HubSpot so that they can be analysed and turned into policies using ChatGPT”. Of course ChatGPT had to be involved somewhere, right?

Finally, it asks its potential voters - the “Validators” - to score its proposed policies, with anything getting more than 50% marks becoming official policy. Absolutely no way that could ever go wrong of course.

Because, so far, only humans are allowed to physically sit in Parliament, a winning variant of AI Steve would in theory be represented in human form by Steve Endacott. He happens to be the chairman of Neural Voice, a company that sells " Dialogue Driven AI" in the world outside of politics.

Despite now apparently having admirably Green leanings, in 2022 he was a fully human candidate for the Conservatives. That didn’t work out well, with him gaining just 487 votes, placing him in last place of a 7 candidate race. But, lessons have been learned. This time, aside from having created some of the initial policy ideas, it sees like he’s really just a proxy and will vote based on what AI Steve tells him to do. As an independent, which in some way seems unnecessary given Sunak often gives me strong vibes of being an AI deepfake himself. But sure, I wouldn’t want to be associated with the Conservatives if I was an info-swilling computer full of reassuringly definitive, and sometimes even correct, answers.

Apparently part of the intention was to solve the problem that many politicians have faced over the years, namely how to work effectively when you insist on living extremely far away from the constituency you are claiming to want to represent. Creatively, it turns out you just don’t, you just get tell your constituents to talk to a machine and the machine to make all the decisions.

In a way it feels quite incredible that this is legal. Although I suppose it’s a grey area. There’s a good chance that something half-like this is already happening and the MP in question just hasn’t mentioned that they primarily govern via commercial chatbot yet.

In any case, I’m relieved to see that number 1 on the list of what “AI Steve stands for” is “Good ideas”.