In September last year, at its annual conference, a political party took a radical new direction with the appointment of a new leader. British politics is now feline fine, after the appointment of Mandu the cat as one of the joint leaders of the Monster Raving Loony Party. Mandu fought a fierce battle over the top slot against his owner, chairman of the party Howling Lord Hope. Mr Hope launched a strong attack on Mandu’s manifesto labelling it ‘catastrophic’ and said that if he lost he would be forced to take a more dogmatic approach. The leadership contest was tied, each having 125 votes, and Hope, as chairman, had the casting vote, but he did not want to vote for himself or his cat so a joint leadership was formed.
Not much is known about Mandu, who is a four-year-old ginger tomcat, other than the only person he can communicate with is his owner Alan Hope. Lord Hope however has already proven his worth to the party having been the party’s only office holder as mayor of Ashburton, Devon and recently received 238 votes in the Eddisbury by-election.
The leadership battle came about due to the death of the party’s founder and former leader Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow, who committed suicide at his home in June of this year. He had been struggling with depression for many years and had been prescribed anti-depressants to combat his illness. Lord Sutch’s private life was dogged by depression and debt; he lost large sums of money in forfeited election deposits and was bailed out by William Hill for debts of around £194,000. Also he never got over the death of his mother in 1997. He was buried in June in a funeral which included Leopard skin armbands, a cavalcade of motorbikes and rock and roll. The service included hymns, as well as Roll over Beethoven by Chuck Berry, which had mourners outside dancing.
But then again he did have some outrageous policies: His campaign to put crocodiles in the Thames was met with scepticism by anyone who knew anything about crocodiles. Similarly, using the wine lake to breed fish so that they are already pickled, resulted in uproar among the fish pickling community, who pointed out that hundreds of jobs would be undermined by the by-passing of the traditional pickling process. Abolishing January and February to make winter shorter, was arguably a policy that had the potential to gain much public support, however the logistics of actually legislating for such a move have been brought into question. A Scottish parliament on wheels would have been entertaining if nothing else, while abolishing work before lunchtime as it is “Far too difficult” gained universal approval from every undergrad I know. Interestingly, environmentalists failed to respond to the innovative policy of generating cheap electricity by using a giant treadmill for joggers and the unemployed. While arguably, relocating Euro-Disney to the whole of Britain seemed fair enough.Lord Sutch first stood for the National Teenage party in 1963, despite being 22 at the time. Although he never won a Parliamentary seat he was still well known, and arguably despite his death still has a higher profile than most of the shadow cabinet. Although often seen as even more of a figure of ridicule than William Hague, several of his policies have been adopted over the years, such as: Votes at 18;Pubs opening all day Sunday; Passports for pets; Commercial radio licensing; Abolition of the 11-plus. It was also a loophole kept open by Sutch, which allowed MP Martin Bell in make it into Parliament as an independent.
And of course he backed British beef, saying “I’ve eaten it for years and look at me!”
Lord Sutch’s political endeavours have included paying £10 to join the Conservative Party and then challenging then leader Margaret Thatcher for the leadership: unfortunately, he was unable to get the requisite nominations. He shamed Lord Owen’s Social Democrats in the 1990 Bootle by-election by getting a higher number of votes. He even offered to stand down as leader and let Bill Clinton take over should the American President be forced to resign; Sutch said “He’s the ideal candidate because we do not ban sex in our party”. Sutch also added, “On Thursdays and Fridays we have big rock and roll nights and Mr Clinton can join us with his saxophone.” John Major once said Sutch had been “by far the most intelligent opponent” after Sutch pulled out of the 1997 General Election. Lord Sutch also has had an autobiography, Life As Sutch, published in 1991.
Outside politics, Lord Sutch’s first love was rock ’n’ roll, he and his band called the Raving Savages released songs such as Knocking on my Coffin Lid and Jack the Ripper, and they had an act that included fake human entrails. A couple of albums got into the American charts. The band travelled up and down the country performing to raise money for the party to pay election deposits of £500 each. During Sutch’s political career they played more than 250 gigs.
At this year’s conference, the party’s 19th, instead of a minutes silence there was a minute’s shouting and screaming. Lord Hope has said he will run the party in his own way, as there could never be two Lord Sutchs. He has also expressed a concern that if one day the party were to retain their deposit at an election, the hierarchy in the party would have to meet to reconsider his leadership, as they always said to Sutch that “if he ever retained his deposit he’d be out”.
So what is the future for the Loonies? Incidents such as the choice of Christine Gwyther, the Vegetarian Agriculture Secretary in the Welsh Assembly and in America former pro-wrestler Jesse `The Body’ Ventura becoming Governor of Minnesota whose personal pledges included challenging the anti-gun lobby and looking at legalisation of prostitution seem to show the loony way of politics is spreading throughout the world. As for the Official Monster Raving Looney Party here in the UK, up until his death, Lord Sutch was the party. The decision to carry on is a brave one, as members will have to prove that they are more than just background noise holding up Lord Sutch. Under the leadership of Mandu, the Moggy Raving Loony Party is ready to get their claws into the opposition parties.