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Official Monster Raving Loony Party

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The Official Monster Raving Loony Party (OMRLP) is a United Kingdom political party that was founded by musician and anti-politician Screaming Lord Sutch in 1983.

Contents

Sutch's early political activity

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The Official logo

Beginning in 1964, Sutch—of Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages—stood under a whole raft of party names, mainly as the National Teenage Party candidate. At that time the voting age was set at 21 and the name "National Teenage Party" was intended to highlight what Sutch and others saw as the hypocrisy in the situation that, while teenagers were unfairly denied the right to vote on the basis of their supposed immaturity, the "adults" running the country were involved in such shenanigans as the Profumo Affair. Sutch himself was in his mid twenties in 1964.

Formation of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party

The "Raving Loony" tag only came when Sutch returned to politics in the 1980s, after leaving the USA thoroughly disillusioned with what he saw as an increasingly violent United States (including being shot at during a mugging attempt). A similar concept appeared in the "Election Night Special" sketch by Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1970 in which the Silly Party and the Sensible Party competed against each other. Monty Python also popularised the word "loony" in the sense that Sutch was using in the name of the OMRLP, but it is possible that Sutch inspired Monty Python by managing to stand against Harold Wilson in 1966 and in the City of London election in 1970. There had also been a "Science Fiction and Loony" candidate in the 1976 Cambridge by-election.

It should also be stressed, however, that there were two others important in the formation of the future OMRLP. The first was John Dougrez-Lewis, who stood at the Crosby by-election of 1981 (which was won by the Social Democratic Party's co-founder Shirley Williams). He stood at the by-election as Tarquin Fintim-Limbim-Whimbim-Lim Bus Stop-F'Tang-F'Tang-Olé-Biscuit-Barrel (a name taken directly from Monty Python) on the behalf of the Cambridge University Raving Loony Society despite a legal challenge to stop him from standing by a far-right candidate wishing to highlight his suspension from Middlesex Polytechnic for his views. CURLS were an “anti-political party” and charity fundraising group formed largely to be a fun counter response to increasingly polarised student politics on campus & responsible for a number of fun-stunts (their Oxford University equivalents were the “Oxford Raving Lunatics”) Dougrez-Lewis was to become Sutch's agent at the notorious Bermondsey by-election of 1983 where the OMRLP banner was first unfurled.

The second person who helped found the party was Commander Bill Boaks, a retired World War II hero involved in the sinking of the Bismarck, who had campaigned and stood for election for over 30 years on limited funds, always on the issue of road safety (he had been prosecuted several times as a result of his campaigns against several prominent figures who had mysteriously managed to escape prosecution for drunk-driving offences). Boaks foresaw the problems that increased traffic and more roads would cause the country, but by the time his predictions of unnecessary child deaths, pollution and congestion were proved correct, he had died as a result of head injuries received three years earlier from a motorcycle collision. Boaks acted as one of Sutch's counting agents at Bermondsey and also proved influential on Sutch's direction as the leading anti-politician: "it's the ones who don't vote you really want, because they're the ones who think". Boaks subsequently retired from standing at elections due to his injuries, content that someone else was now taking up the anti-Establishment baton he had held for three decades.

Candidates and party manifesto

The Loonies generally field as many candidates as possible in United Kingdom general elections, some (but by no means all) standing under ridiculous false names they have adopted via deed poll. Sutch himself stood against all three main party leaders (John Major, Neil Kinnock and Paddy Ashdown) in the 1992 General Election. Parliamentary candidates have to pay their own deposit (which currently stands at £500) and cover all of their expenses. No OMRLP candidate has managed to get the required 5% of the popular vote needed to retain his deposit but this does not stop people standing. Sutch came closest with 4.1% and over a thousand votes at the Rotherham by-election, whilst Stuart Hughes still holds the record for the largest number of votes for a Loony candidate at a Parliamentary election, with 1,442 at the 1992 General Election in the Honiton seat in east Devon. The all time highest vote achieved was by comedian Danny Bamford, who secured 3,339 votes in the 1994 European Elections. He had also acted as an election agent for Lindi St Clair's rival Corrective Party, and was a former close associate of Stuart Hughes.

In 1987 the OMRLP won its first seat on Ashburton Town Council in Devon, as Alan Hope was elected unopposed. He subsequently became Deputy Mayor and later Mayor of Ashburton until he moved to Hampshire after Sutch's death. His hotel in Ashburton "The Golden Lion" (referred to by some in the party as "The Mucky Mog"!) was the party's Headquarters & conference centre for over a decade.

The OMRLP are distinguished by having a deliberately bizarre manifesto, which contains things that seem to be too impossible or too absurd to implement. Despite its satirical nature, some of the things that have featured in Loony manifestos have become law, such as being able to vote at 18, "passports for pets", and all-day pub openings. Similarly, the outcry following Alan Hope's appearance on the BBC's Nationwide current affairs programme after he was elected - during which he mentioned that butter and milk surpluses were being dumped down abandoned mineshafts under EEC rules to maintain prices (something the media of the day had failed to expose) - resulted in the distribution of such surplus items to the needy or charities instead.

Divisions within the Loony Party

Just like any other party, the OMRLP has long suffered from splits over policy regarding just how silly it should be. Many mistakenly believed that the splits were flimsy attempts at poking fun at the series of splits going on in British politics during the late 1980s - at the Vauxhall by-election there were two Green Party candidates (due to an error on their part) and two National Front candidates from their warring "Third Way" & "Flag" factions, as well as the feuding Liberal Democrats and Social Democratic Party candidates - but the splits were serious, despite Peter "Top Cat" Owen's blithe dismissal to journalists that "the only splits I'm interested in are the ones with bananas in them" (which lead to his adoption of an inflatable banana when on the campaign trail!).

Some members believe that OMRLP activities are purely for fun (and an ego trip or publicity for their entertainment business), while others see the party in the same vein as Private Eye magazine or programmes such asThat Was The Week That Was or Spitting Image, using satire to make serious points on issues of the day. Tensions have often resulted because the more serious types in the OMRLP have managed to do what most observers considered impossible - actually achieve a creditable number of votes.

There were also objections in some quarters to the continued presence of convicted brothel keeper and minor celebrity Cynthia Payne—a friend of Sutch—who was at the front of many party photo opportunities but continued to stand instead as a member of the rival Rainbow Alliance party (aka Captain Rainbow's Universal Abolish Parliament Party) of George Weiss (a friend of Ian Dury and Peter Cook). The controversy heightened after Weiss was convicted of heroin possession.

In 1989, Stuart Hughes, along with Danny Bamford (later Danny Blue), Roly Gillard, Melvyn Hertshorne and Stuart Greenwood formed the breakaway Raving Loony Green Giant Party (RLGGP), mainly due to personality clashes with OMRLP Chairman Alan Hope and other "Fun-da-Mental-ists" - the final straw being the latter (and Sutch's) behaviour during a sponsored walk to the Scilly Isles for the children's cancer charity CLIC where they only turned up at the start and finish for the media call whilst Hughes and others did the whole event.

Stuart Hughes's electoral successes

The first Raving Loony to win as a result of a straight vote (as opposed to being elected unopposed) was Stuart Hughes, taking the "safe" Conservative seat of Sidmouth Wolbrook on East Devon District Council in May 1991. He then took a seat on Sidmouth Town Council from the Conservatives the following day. His success was met with fury and quite disproportionate hostility from the local Tories. Hughes's reaction was to attempt to make their lives a misery for the next three years. He refused to pay his Poll Tax, then dumped scrap metal in the middle of the council chambers to the value of his unpaid tax). He also formed an alliance known as "The Coastals" (because of the seats they held) of Independents and the sole Green Party councillor, giving East Devon's ruling Conservatives the first true opposition they had faced for decades (the local Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties being negligible).

Hughes retained his seats with increased majorities in subsequent elections, and the final humiliation for the Conservatives came when he took the Devon County Council seat from the local party's Chief Whip in the council. Hughes remains a member of all three councils to this day although he now does his politicking as a Conservative.

The RLGGP's better organisation and success at the polls proved a wake up call to the OMRLP. At one stage in England during the early 1990s there were 16 councillors elected despite having the word "Loony" accredited to them, and one in Scotland - Mark Boyle on Johnstone Community Council - who stood as a joint Official Monster Raving Loony Party and Raving Loony Green Giant Party candidate because he disagreed with the split (Hughes and Sutch thought having a joint councillor for two warring factions hilarious, Hope less so). To date, two have risen to become mayors - Alan Hope in Devon and Chris "Screwy" Driver in Essex.

Loonies embarrass Social Democrats

At the Bootle by-election in May 1991, the Loony candidate (Sutch) received more votes than the candidate for the Social Democrats. This was the last straw for the rump Social Democrats - centred around former Labour Foreign Secretary Dr. David Owen - who had refused to join in the merger of the SDP with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats. Rubbing salt in their wounds, Sutch offered to form a coalition with them, but they instead disbanded...or at least most of them did. A core around the defeated SDP candidate, Jack Holmes, vowed to carry on - ironically reforming an alliance with the continuing Liberal Party (run by Michael Meadowcroft and David Moorish, who had also opposed the merger). Almost a year after Bootle, the supposedly disbanded SDP finished fourth at Neath, and were to carry on winning council seats for many years after their supposed "death".

Serious attempts to gather votes

Sutch also defeated a joint Plaid Cymru/Green Party candidate at the bitter Monmouth by-election and almost beat the ruling Conservative Party's candidate at the Islwyn by-election later on - but by this time the OMRLP were organised enough to make coming in fourth the norm in by-elections in England and Wales.

The credit for this must lie with John Tempest, a former Liberal/Liberal Democrat press officer and election agent who, along with friend and OMRLP activist Willi Beckett (one of the founders of the anarchist One-In-Twelve Club in Bradford) transformed the way the party fought elections. From the outset they were determined to make the OMRLP reap the rewards of being the unofficial "protest vote party" of the UK: now posters, car stickers, and a never-ending series of headline-grabbing stunts not only made it easier for the party to gain publicity, but also ensured they were treated fairly by the media (three by-election TV shows were cancelled when the OMRLP used the law to stop them having candidate debates that barred the Loony candidate).

Tempest and Beckett suffered the same problems from the "Fun-da-Mental-ist" faction, but by then new people had entered the party such as future Chairman Peter 'T.C.' Owen, to whom beating the other parties was what it was all about and who saw nothing funny about coming last with a handful of votes. It was no coincidence that during the era of Tempest and Beckett, other well known "alternative" parties such as the Greens, National Front, British National Party, and the UK Independence Party often withdrew their candidates from seats after an OMRLP member had announced their candidature because of the damage to party morale from finishing with fewer votes than a "Raving Loony".

Sutch's death, and after

Screaming Lord Sutch, a manic depressive after the death of his mother Annie in 1998, committed suicide on June 16, 1999. Sutch drew tributes from right across the political spectrum.

There were also however some not-so-complimentary comments - the worst coming from Roseanna Cunningham, at the time MP for Perth and a columnist for the Scottish Sunday Mail. Cunningham claimed newspapers were more interested in the death of someone she felt had contributed nothing to politics nor society whilst 'ignoring' the death that same week of Cardinal Basil Hume (in fact most had given long obituaries) whom she felt had done more (albeit she failed to name a single achievement). This was sour grapes on Cunningham’s part, having never forgiven the OMRLP for upstaging her on the night of her victory at the ill-tempered Perth & Kinross by-election caused by the death of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn. A foul-up between SNP spindoctors inside and outside Perth Town Hall and the BBC led to expectant nationalist supporters gathered outside cheering Sutch, Boyle and Beckett for five minutes instead when they stumbled out of Perth Town Hall first; leaving Cunningham trapped inside whilst the OMRLP (and one defecting Scottish Liberal Democrat) conducted the crowd in choral renditions of both "Spot the Loony" and "Let's All Laugh At Labour". (Labour had spent a fortune in vain on trying to win the seat for Peter Mandelson's then aide Douglas Alexander.

This in many ways sums up the OMRLP's role in politics. Politicians and the media loved them, so long as they themselves did not fall foul of their antics.

Sutch's funeral was attended by members of the OMRLP and RLGGP (including Hughes), who provided a more dignified entourage than Sutch's own relatives and romantic partners, who fought with one another at the graveside. The OMRLP is now run by Alan "Howling Laud" Hope and his dead cat, Cat Mandu. Cat Mandu was reputedly the real winner of the 1999 membership ballot for the replacement for Sutch, and was killed in 2002.

The OMRLP fielded 15 candidates in the 2001 General Election, where they actually ran up their best General Election results to date. This, however, has been followed by a series of disastrous by-election results and a further split. Chris Driver formed the Rock 'n' Roll Loony Party in a sad replay of the events surrounding the OMRLP/RLGGP split a decade earlier. This splinter however did not last anywhere near as long as the RLGGP, and by 2004 was effectively dead, with most of its members having rejoined the OMRLP.

Non-Loonies who nevertheless claimed to be

The party suffered from a number of individuals that claimed to be members—usually for their nefarious reasons—down the years (leading in several instances to recourse to the Law – eg. one Peter “The Mad Monk” Dixon in Cheshire). Two cases in particular deserve mention.

Sir Patrick Moore, the famous British TV astronomer, several times claimed to be the party's Minister for Flying Saucers. In fact, Moore was not welcome at all within the party.

He had formerly ran his own United Country Party in 1979, which merged in 1981 into Dennis Delderfield's New Britain Party (with characteristic poor timing, they did so a day before the launch of the Social Democratic Party. Both the UCP & the NBP were far-right parties, one of many failed attempts between 1976 to 1982 to create "respectable" versions of the British National Front. Moore's claims had more to do with erasing his past political associations from public consciousness - fearing his TV career could be terminated if he was seen as a racist at a time when the BBC (for whom he did "The Sky at Night") were becoming increasingly "politically correct". He later changed his story, claiming the party had asked him, but he refused.

Second comes Hugh Reed & The Velvet Underpants, a band barely known outside of the Scottish University circuit. They released the song "Vote Monster Raving Looney" in 1992. They were however nothing to do with the Official Monster Raving Loony Party (hence the different spelling of "Loony") & disowned by a press statement from John Tempest.

The band subsequently became involved in fund-raising activities for the "ultra-nationalist" (ie. Ethnic/cultural nationalist) Siol nan Gaidheal group (who were expelled from the Scottish National Party in 1982).

2005 General Election

A biography of Sutch - "The Man Who Was Screaming Lord Sutch" (by Graham Sharpe, the Media Relations Manager for bookmakers William Hill) was released in April 2005 (ISBN 1-85410-983-9), but its description of what remains of the party as "wannabes, never-would-bes and some bloody-well-shouldn't bes" was hardly what the party needed in the middle of a General Election campaign, though it is debatable just how much an effect this had on the party’s fortunes at the General Election (they did gain an impressive article in the Financial section of The Times days before the vote itself.

The manifesto, entitled "The Manicfesto", for the 2005 General Election the OMRLP's major manifesto commitment was once more their long held pledge to abolish income tax, citing as always that it was only meant to be a temporary measure during the Napoleonic Wars. This has been a Loony staple policy since the original manifesto was written by Sutch's agent Pauline Read in 1983. Also included was another old staple, the "Putting Parliament On Wheels" idea of having Parliament sit throughout the country rather than solely in London - with special emphasis this time in its creation negating the need for national/regional assemblies.

The rest of the party's manifesto included:

  • Refusing to sign up to the euro, but inviting the rest of Europe to join the pound.
  • Drivers can go straight over a roundabout when there's no traffic coming "to make driving through Milton Keynes more fun".
  • Traffic cops "too stupid" for normal police work to be retrained as vicars.
  • Withdrawal of MPs' £118,000 expenses allowance, and the money "in future be distributed to the poor and needy so that they can waste it instead."
  • Any MP whose constituency sells off a school playing field for development will be required to relinquish their own back garden as a replacement sports facility for the school.
  • All motorways to become massive cycle tracks instead (even the Green Party has never dared go so far on an environmental pledge)
  • All speed cameras will be abolished and replaced by a new device fitted to cars which will automatically slow down to the speed limit when driven though an infra-red beam.
  • Introduction of a 99p coin to save on change.

Overall the results proved a huge disappointment for the OMRLP, the only bright spot being Alan Hope’s increase of the vote to over 500, but all other candidates saw marked reductions - including Owen haemorrhaging over 300 votes straight over to the BNP, contesting the Wokingham seat for the first time. "Top Cat" Owen is the only member of the current OMRLP line up ever to poll over 1000 votes (he polled 2,859 votes in the 1994 European elections), & his dip in fortunes despite a previously strong local following appears to have killed the last realistic chance the party ever had of seeing a saved deposit.

York Branch Terminal Split

The party also suffered from an ill-needed row over its York branch, which led to there being no "official" City of York candidate. Eddie Vee, the previous candidate, wished to stand again, but the branch honorary secretary John E Morris and the branch treasurer, Gareth Spydaz elected to have the famous alternative artist Andy "Milladdio" Hinkles as the candidate, & asked Vee to stand elsewhere.

Morris & Spidaz were well known enough in York, Morris as a former National Front & then Green Party activist, whilst Spydaz is known as York's "super-squatter", an activist of the York Peace Collective that led a series of highly publicised squats during 2003 & 2004 to highlight neglected "listed" buildings (their antics included the holding of Art exhibitions within such abandoned properties).

The response, however, from OMRLP headquarters was for Boney Maroney to expel Morris & Spiderz from the party and declare Vee the candidate the branch "wanted".

How true this claim was can be gauged from the fact that Vee then failed to raise the £500 deposit to stand, but Morris & Spyderz had the deposit for Hinkles - now standing as a York Integrity Party (although the ballot paper simply reads "Independent Hinkles") - submitted within days of the Notice of Election being posted.

Morris, Hinkles & Spydaz proffered an olive branch to party HQ, but with no response, and with the Socialist Alliance & the Green Party contesting the seat, any hopes the Hinkles candidature may have had of attracting the "alternative" vote from his association with Spydaz were dashed – he barely took 100 votes.

The current status of the OMRLP

The OMRLP's official headquarters are in the Dog and Partridge pub at Yateley in Hampshire. The Chair remains Alan Hope, although the real day-to-day running of the party is done by Melodie "Boney Maroney" Staniforth, whose 2004 council election result of 300+ votes was greeted with a remarkable amount of ill-will from local major party members (the usual signs that a "Raving Loony" candidate has now moved into the "serious threat" category). A return to concentrating on the council election circuit seems to be the only chance the OMRLP has of regaining any of its past glories when its vote - and public interest – appears to be in terminal decline.

Quotation

  • "Vote for insanity. You know it makes sense." - Screaming Lord Sutch (a parody on Margaret Thatcher's oft used "You know it makes sense" by-line circa 1979-1983

See also

External link

  • Official web site (http://www.omrlp.com/) of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.
  • [1] (http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:Zmxbj9hrfh8J:www.thisisyork.co.uk/york/news/YORK_NEWS_DIARY2.html+andy+hinkles+loony&hl=en) The Hinkles Row
  • [2] (http://www.thisisyork.co.uk/york/news/YORK_NEWS_DIARY2.html) The Hinkles/Vee Row (continued)
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