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Official Monster Raving Loony Party

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.

Previously Sutch - of Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages - had stood under a whole raft of party names since 1964, mainly as the National Teenage Party candidate - provoked by the voting age of the UK at the time being 21 when the older generation were showing how "responsible" they were by such events as the Profumo Affair.

The "Raving Loony" tag only came when he returned to politics in the 1980s, after leaving the USA thoroughly disillusioned with an increasingly violent "Land Of The Free" under Ronald Reagan. A similar concept appeared in the "Election Night Special" sketch by Monty Python's Flying Circus in 1971 in which a Silly and 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 "Sci-Fi Loony" candidate during the 1960s.

It should also be stressed however that there were two others important in the formation of the future OMRLP. First of all John Dougrez-Lewis, who stood at the Crosby (Merseyside) by-election of 1981 (which was won by the SDP's Shirley Williams - one of the "Gang Of Four" that formed the party). He stood at the by-election as (deep breath) Tarquin Fin Tin Lin Bin Sim F'tang F'Tang Ole Bus-Stop Biscuit Barrel III on the behalf of the Cambridge University Raving Loony Society (an anti-political party & charity fundraising group on campus) - despite a legal challenge to stop him from standing by a far-right candidate from Middlesex Polytechnic. Dougrez-Lewis was Sutch's agent at the notorious Bermondsey by-election of 1982 where the OMRLP was first unfurled.

The second was Commander William Boaks, a retired WW2 hero involved in the sinking of the Bismarck, who had campaigned and stood for election for over 30 years on limited funds all on the subject of Road Safety (he was in fact prosecuted several times as a result of his campaigns against several prominent figures that had mysteriously managed to escape prosecution for drunk driving offences). Boaks foresaw the problems that increased traffic and more roads would cause the country well before anyone else did, and by the time his predictions of unnecessary child deaths, pollution and congestion were proven correct he had died ironically 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 of 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 baton against the Establishment he'd railed against for three decades.

The Loonies generally field as many candidates as possible in United Kingdom general elections, some (by no means all) standing under ridiculous false names they have adopted via deed poll. Parliamentary candidates have to pay their own deposit (which currently stands at 500) and cover all of their expenses. No OMLRP 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 most number of votes with 1,442 at the 1992 General Election at the Honiton seat in East Devon.

The OMRLP are distingushed by having a rather 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; whilst the outcry following Alan Hope's appearance on "Nationwide" after becoming elected to Ashburton Town Council - during which he mentioned that butter and milk surpluses were being dumped down abandoned mineshafts under EEC rules to maintain prices (something the largely pro-government media of the day had strangely failed to expose) - resulted in the distribution of such surplus items to the needy or charities instead.

In 1987 the OMRLP won its first seat on Ashburton parish 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.

But 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 and two National Front candidates as well as the feuding Liberal Democrats and Social Democratic Party candidates - but the splits were deadly serious. There has always been one half whose line was always that it was just a bit of fun (and an ego trip or publicity for their entertainment business), whilst the other half saw the party as in the same spirit as "Private Eye" magazine or programmes such as "That Was The Week That Was" or "Spitting Image" that used satire to make serious points on serious 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 any 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), especially 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, mainly due to personality clashes with OMRLP Chairman Alan Hope and other "Fun-da-Mental-ists" - the final straw being the latter (& Sutch's) behaviour during a sponsored walk for the children's cancer charity CLIK where they only turned up at the start and finish for the media call whilst Hughes and others did the whole event.

Unsurprisingly, 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 (he then took a seat on the Sidmouth Town Council from the Conservatives the following day) in May 1991. His election was met with fury and quite disproportionate hostility from the local Tories. Hughes reaction was to make their lives an absolute misery for the next three years (this included refusing to pay his Poll Tax and then dumping a load of scrap metal in the middle of the council chambers to the value of his unpaid "Community Charge"), and forming an alliance known as "The Coastals" (because of the seats they held) of Independants and the sole Green Party councillor that gave East Devon's ruling Conservatives the first true opposition they'd faced for decades (the local Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties being negligble).

Hughes was to retain his seats when up for election with increased majorities, 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.

The RLGGP's better organisation and success at the polls proved a wake up call to the OMRLP. It's sobering to remember that 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.

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 to come long after their "death".

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 becoming regularly fourth place 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 who along with friend and OMRLP activist Willi Beckett (one of the founders of the anarchist One-In-Twelve Club in Bradford) were to transform 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 in which they were going to be debarred).

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 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 withdraw 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".

Screaming Lord Sutch, a manic depressive after the death of his mother Annie in 1998, committed suicide on June 16, 1999 and drew tributes from right across the political spectrum. There were also however some not so complimentary, the worst being from the embittered Roseanna Cunningham[?] - the then SNP MP for Perth - in a tabloid newspaper. Cunningham (a self-confessed Star Trek fan who could "speak" Klingon) had never forgiven the OMRLP for upstaging her on the night of her by-election triumph (caused by the death of Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Fairbairn) when a foul up between SNP spindoctors and the BBC led to the nationalist supporters gathered outside cheering Sutch, Boyle and Beckett for five minutes when they stumbled out of Perth Town Hall first! Cunningham was left trapped inside whilst the OMRLP (and one defecting Scottish Liberal Democrat...) conducted the crowd in choral renditions of "Spot the Loonies" and "Let's All Laugh At Labour" - the latter having spend a fortune on trying to win the seat for Peter Mandelson's henchman Douglas Alexander.

This in many ways summed 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 (killed 2002 - and reputedly the real winner of the 1999 membership ballot for the replacement for Sutch), and has since 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 forming the Rock'n'Roll Loony Party in a sad replay of the events surrounding the OMRLP/RLGGP a decade earlier. The OMRLP's official headquarters are in the Dog and Partridge pub at Yateley.

See also Ezenhemmer Plastic Bags and Child Rearing Utensils Party

External Links

  • Official web site (http://www.omrlp.com/) of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.

Quotation

"Vote for insanity. You know it makes sense."



All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

 
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