The natural Law Party promised world peace through transcendental meditation and an end to poverty by applying the Constitution of the Universe. It even sent a squadron of 7,000 yogic flyers to end the conflict in Kosovo. But now, after years of campaigning and tens of thousands of pounds of lost deposits, the party has decided to disband. The Yogi has finally landed. Doubtless triggering waves of relief at Labour's Millbank headquarters and Conservative Central Office, Britain's most idiosyncratic party confirmed yesterday that it will not be contesting the next general election or indeed any election.
Perhaps unusually for an organisation that believes in mind-to- mind communication, the party blamed its decision on a failure to get its message across to the public.
The Natural Law Party was fully active last year, fighting local and Greater London elections, as well as holding an annual conference, but its leaders have agreed to put it into deep storage. "We discussed before Christmas whether we should fight another election and we have now decided to disband the party. It is being retained on one level, but as far as elections are concerned, the Party is on ice," a spokeswoman said.
Without a hint of irony, she added: "We put it down to a simple lack of understanding of our policies in the general public." Given that those policies centred on the theory of the "Unified Field of Natural Law - the unified field of intelligence underlying all forms and activities in the entire universe," it is perhaps unsurprising that they have proved a little baffling to most
In response to what it called widespread dissatisfaction with the existing political parties, the Natural Law Party of Great Britain, to give it its full title, was formed on 15 March 1992. It claimed its technique of yogic flying had been "validated by more than 500 scientific research studies conducted at 215 independent universities and research institutions in 27 countries during the past 30 years".
Based on the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, it promised to bring "innovative, scientifically proven solutions to the nation's problems" and fielded candidates for 310 seats in the 1992 general election.
Unfortunately, the great British public didn't seem particularly ready for the yogic revolution and the NLP received just 0.4 per cent of the vote in the constituencies it contested.
Despite its poor start, the party decided to contest as many subsequent elections as it could, reaching a polling high in the European elections of 1999, when it attracted 400,000 votes across the continent. In local elections last year, John Collins, its candidate in the ward of Birch Green in West Lancashire, received 269 votes, well ahead of the Conservative candidate and second only to Labour. "It won't be long until the Natural Law Party has district councillors in Britain," Mr Collins said at the time.
However, almost every other candidate lost their deposit in every election the party contested. Even so, its political broadcasts showing men and women dressed in judo suits with legs crossed bounding across a room became classics of the genre.
But losing deposits has not been much of a problem for a party which has received substantial financial backing from its supporters over the years. Thousands of apparently normal individuals holding down jobs as solicitors, accountants, even doctors, were lured by its charms of transcendental meditation.
The party even attracted a superstar millionaire backer when George Harrison, the former Beatle, donated part of his fortune to its upkeep.