Bookies back the champion loser

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The last vestige of unsponsored amateur political lunacy ended yesterday with the announcement by bookmakers William Hill that it is to offer financial support to the bankruptcy-threatened king of the cranks, Screaming Lord Sutch.

The betting company announced it would be mounting a "four-figure" rescue package to save the political career of the man who has fought (and lost) more by-elections than anyone else. The 55-year-old unennobled Lord, the country's longest serving political leader, fresh from his recent 586- vote, deposit-losing campaign in Perth and Kinross, has admitted he faces financial ruin over a failed property venture.

Barclays Bank plans to take the loonies' leader, whose real name is David Sutch, to court over a pounds 194,000 debt. Mr Sutch says he will fight the action: "But if I fail, then that's it for the Monster Raving Loony Party." Lord Sutch is said to have lost around pounds 70,000 in deposits and failed campaigns. The publicity gained, however, reaps its rewards in rock concerts staged between the political spotlights.

Although it is unlikely to interest Lord Nolan, the Independent has uncovered a monster raving revelation. The party's deputy leader, publican Alan Hope, said: "William Hill have been helping out David for some time now. He wears a ... badge stating 'I bet I will beat William Hill' [he bets on the number of votes he will win]."

But William Hill may just be the start. Mr Hope said: "A number of top companies have announced they are no longer to give money to the Tories. Well, we want those companies to know we're here if you want us."

Screaming history, page 7