LOOKING BACK AT LOONY DAYS OF POLITICS
Quite what my mother would have thought of Brexit I don’t know, writes Monica Dyson. She was very pro Europe but that was only because as she got older she managed to get away somewhere nice and hot in Spain or Italy every year, with her equally ageing cronies. Politics didn’t come into it.
However, during the 1950s, my mother was an enthusiastic voter at all elections. I remember when it was the General Election in England in 1959 she voted for the Conservative candidate for Brightside, Sheffield, Hugo Holmes. It wasn’t that she actually had any real interest in politics, but as she said ‘Hugo was so handsome and spoke so nicely!’ He didn’t actually get anywhere as all through the 1950s Richard Winterbottom, the Labour candidate became the people’s choice with every election, but she was exercising her democratic right to vote, and if that was the criteria she used, then so be it.
I sometimes think that you might as well vote for people on the strength of their looks, as politics seems to be something that can attract people who are completely off their rockers. The British people have always loved their eccentrics, and there was no one who fitted that description more than the musician David ‘Screaming Lord’ Sutch (Third Lord of Harrow). My husband votes reluctantly in any election, having no faith in anyone from any political party. However he has said that, if Lord Sutch had been standing in Sheffield, he would have voted for him enthusiastically, as he was the only person who has ever brought a sense of fun to the political scene.
I remember a few years ago we went to see Lord Sutch and The Savages at The Boardwalk, the premier Sheffield music venue which sadly closed some years ago. They were very late arriving as they had lost their way.
The band walked through the concert venue carrying a coffin and once on the stage it opened to reveal Sutch. That would set the tone for an evening of utter madness. Despite a self-confessed lack of any vocal talent, Sutch carved out a prolific and varied career.
In the early 60s he started to stand in parliamentary elections, at first representing the National Teenage Party, and then by the 1980s The Monster Raving Loony Party -‘Vote for Insanity!’ In his career he contested over 40 elections, always losing his deposit but always commanding a respectable number of votes. After he polled several hundred votes in Margaret Thatcher’s constituency in 1983, the deposit was raised from £150 to £500. Undeterred, he increased the number of his concerts to pay the extra cost. He achieved his highest number of votes in Rotherham in 1994 with 1,114 votes.
David Sutch, whose idol was Winston Churchill, had many famous friends to include Mick Jagger and even visited the Playboy Mansion in America. However, although viewed as a harmless eccentric by many, he was also thought of as a complete nuisance by others.
He suffered from severe depression and took his own life in 1999 following the death of his mother.
Spin offs from the Monster Raving Loony Party were the Monster Raving Loony Green Party and the Rock and Roll Loony Party. Their policies included free beer for all, sex for pensioners and laughter clinics on the NHS.
The official Monster Raving Loony Party still fields candidates from time to time at elections, but seems to have lost the zaniness that Lord Sutch brought. One of their supporters, astrologer Patrick Moore, at one time the party’s finance minister, said: ‘The party have an advantage over other political parties as, at least they know they are loonies!’
However they still have interesting policies. This year’s include sending Noel Edmonds to negotiate Brexit as he understands Deal or No Deal! a ban on greyhound racing to stop the country going to the dogs, and giving OAPs a summer ice lolly allowance.
One other party well known for being a bit off the wall in the UK was ‘The Church of the Militant Elvis Party’. This alternative branch of politics had seven registered campaign groups including the ‘Bus Pass Elvis Party’, ‘Elvis Defence League’ and Elvis Turns Green Party’. Campaign pledges for the 2010 General Election included ‘filling in pot holes’ ‘bringing back dog licences’ ‘introducing moats round houses’ and ‘Bono for Pope!’ Others were the plan to invade Antarctica and shout at icebergs to stop them melting, put CCTV in the bedroom of Nick Clegg, Deputy PM at the time, and turn public schools into £1 shops. Generally the party did not do terribly well in elections. However in a by-election in Nottingham one year, the ‘Bus Pass Elvis Party’ came fourth, ahead of the Lib Dems.
David Cameron famously branded UKIP as ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’. The party, although seeming to fool many people, were accused of homophobia, sexism, racism and islamophobia, blaming the Holocaust on Jews, calling overseas countries ‘bongo bongo land’, advocating that women should not wear trousers, feminism is evil, women are better in the bedroom than the boardroom, calling to scrap the smoking ban and believed PE would prevent children from becoming gay. Seem pretty loony to me! However they do thankfully seem to have disappeared from today’s political scene to some extent.
Indignantly, the leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party said it was his party who had attained the Holy Grail of Loonyism, not UKIP. But, naming no names, we do still seem to have a few loonies on the political scene.