The seventh of May 1987 was an historic landmark in British politics. It was the day that the first representative of the Monster Raving Loony Party took a seat as an elected councillor.
The party’s Chairman Mr Alan Hope, landlord of the Golden Lion public house in Ashburton Devon, Annual Conference Centre for the Official Loonies, was elected unopposed as one of 12 residents nominated for the 12 posts of Councillor.
In 1985 the deposit required by anyone wishing to stand as a Parliamentary candidate was raised from £150 to £500. This was returned if the candidate received more than 5% of the votes cast. It was a concession to the increase in deposit which before 1985 required that candidates would forfeit their deposit if they received less than 12.5% of the total votes cast.This was to stop the increase in frivolous candidates and those standing just to gain some publicity. It had no bearing at all on the major parties who rarely lost a deposit. It was acutely embarrassing episode if a candidate from any major party did so.
Many people in this country saw that as no barrier at all. Thankfully, for otherwise there would have been no Screaming Lord Sutch.
He was born David Edward Sutch on 10 November 1940 and became a rock musician during the early 1960’s when he changed his name to Screaming Lord Sutch as a tribute to Sreamin’ Jay Hawkins. He was not a Lord either.
But he was a expert stage performer, appearing out of coffins, wearing blazing headgear and pre-dating acts such as Alice Cooper and Arthur Brown.
He entered politics in 1963 representing the National Teenage Party. In 1983 he formed the National Monster Raving Loony Party and stood at the infamous Bermondsey By-Election. Personal attacks on the openly gay Peter Tatchell cost Labour the previous safe seat and ushered in Simon Hughes who still represents that constituency as a Liberal MP.
In the same year he stood in Margaret Thatcher’s Enfield constituency. He invariable lost his deposit but often polled a decent number of votes. Many of his election manifestos were a matter of humour with the major parties and general public such as turning the butter mountain into giant ski slopes and using joggers to turn huge treadmills to power London.
Amongst other measures he promoted were votes at 18 and radio licenses for commercial stations.
In his later life he suffered from depression and hanged himself on 16 June 1999.
Harry Greenway, Tory MP for Ealing North, described him as “the man who brought gaiety to politics and who pricked the pomposity of politicians”
Conservative MP Nigel Evans: “I fought the Ribble Valley by-election in 1991 and Lord Sutch entered the race. He brought a sense of fun and ridicule to what for the rest of the main candidates was cut throat. He was the original and clearly the best. You felt you hadn’t really fought a by-election unless Lord Sutch was on the ballot. MPs of all parties will miss him.”
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