Vote for Insanity - you know it makes sense
- Monster Raving Loony Party slogan
In the latter half of the 20th Century, Screaming Lord Sutch was a key figure in the British political world, gaining recognition in the Guinness Book of Records as the UK's longest serving political leader. Despite never winning an election, he was one of the most recognisable of all politicians, and his death was a blow to people all across the land.
Born David Sutch, on the 10 November, 1940, Lord Sutch was not just a politician - he was a musician, a father and a deeply depressed man, who eventually took his own life, aged just 58.
The Early Days of Shock and Roll
In the very early 1960s, The Savages were born. Musically, they had talent, but most of all they had Sutch. He couldn't sing, dance or play an instrument - but he was a peerless performer. With long hair, and some amazing make-up, he was one of the first onto the British 'Shock and Roll' scene. Described as 'a bit like punk, 20 years too soon', he was emerging from coffins, brandishing knives or waving flaming objects around when the rest of the country was listening to Cliff Richard.
The Savages never had a hit and yet they had a not-inconsiderable impact on the UK music scene, largely because their live act was phenomenally popular. Their records were nearly all covers, or hallowe'en specials, but they introduced a new personality into British music, that was only temporarily subdued by the arrival of The Beatles - although the BBC made a valiant attempt by banning 'Big Black Coffin/Till the Following Night' from the radio, and subsequently refusing to play songs such as 'Jack the Ripper'. The line-up of the band varied over the years, with such names as Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck, but Sutch was a key member right up until his death.
A Publicity Stunt
In 1963, Sutch found a way of generating publicity and scaring the older generations - he stood for a Stratford-Upon-Avon by-election, on behalf of his brand new organisation, The National Teenage Party1. Aged just 22, and condemned as a lunatic by his rivals, his main campaign issue was lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, although he had a lot to say about the future of independent radio licensing as well - he was a radio enthusiast, who went on to found his own pirate radio station - Radio Sutch - in 1964.
Sutch's next step was to change his name - he had been using the 'Screaming Lord Sutch' alias since The Savages first began2, but now he felt it was time to make it official. In 1968 he changed his name by deed poll, to Lord Sutch - the name that would appear on all subsequent ballot papers.
The Monster Raving Loony Party
In 1970 Sutch changed the name of his party to The Monster Raving Loony Party, the name the party retains today. The party is devoted to silliness and humour, with past and present policies including:
Making the European butter mountain into a ski-slope for Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards3
Providing heated toilet seats for all pensioners
Making it illegal for bald people to go out in public without a hat, because of the danger that the sun might reflect from their heads and blind airline pilots
Breeding ready-pickled fish in the European surplus wine lakes
Restricting the under-21s to driving Reliant Robins (much-ridiculed three-wheeled vehicles), in order to deter boy-racers
However, there is actually a serious side to the Loony Party. Lord Sutch counted a vote for his party as a sign that the voter was disgusted with the other candidates. He blamed what was seen as voter apathy on disgust - people wouldn't turn out and vote because there wasn't anyone worth voting for.
Lord Sutch never came close to winning an election, but so successful was his campaign in attracting publicity that 'serious' candidates protested against his being allowed to stand at all. The growing tide of silly candidates that followed in his wake convinced the government to take measures against them, and they used the most obvious preventative measure - making it more expensive to stand. All candidates have to pay a deposit in order to stand for parliament, which rose in 1985 from £150 to £500. The deposit is refundable if the candidate secures 5% of the vote, although no member of the Loony Party has ever achieved this feat. In fact, it was rumoured - by himself - that Sutch would have been expelled from the party if he'd managed to save a deposit.
In total, Sutch stood for parliament a record number of times, against some of the most famous politicians of the day. His most famous success - relatively speaking - was managing to do three times as well as the candidate for the Social Democratic Party in the 1990 Bootle by-election, thereby convincing the party to fold.
Sutch even dared stand against A288407 in the Finchley election of 1983, calling it 'a nasty experience, as Denis can testify'. He wasn't put off however, and in 1990 he actually joined the Conservative Party in order to challenge Thatcher for leadership. His fellow Tories were not amused and he didn't receive enough nominations to be eligible. This was probably a relief for his bookmakers, who had given odds of 15 million to one against Sutch becoming Prime Minister.
Despite the joviality of his career, Lord Sutch was suffering with long-term depression. In the last few years of his life he was struggling with major debts, estimated by some to be up to £200,000 (although he was gradually paying them off with the help of sponsors) and the death of his mother in 1997 affected him very badly. His suicide, however, was completely unexpected, and his family and friends were shocked when he was found hanged by his partner Yvonne Elwood, on the 16 June, 1999. Sutch is survived by his son, Tristan, who was aged 24 when his father died.
Sutch's funeral was conducted in typical Loony style, with the mourners wearing leopard-print armbands and dancing outside the church. At the annual Loony Party meet, there was a minute's noise, with the Loonies dancing and shouting in his honour.